The dark side of the whiteboard - Experts top my wankometer

18th February 2011 at 00:00

I hate experts. They register a 10 on my wankometer, just above heads of departments whose leadership responsibilities are limited to line-managing themselves and a Dolce Gusto coffee machine. Although admittedly, the latter does test their strategic planning skills as they have to remove the old coffee pod before putting the new one in.

You would think that before giving someone the title of HoD there would have to be an actual department to run. Not so for our head of expressive arts: he was given his TLRs to manage a plywood empire that the deputy head partitioned off from a caretaker's cupboard. It's now full of photocopied John Godber plays, feather boas and the smug smell of freshly brewed coffee. Mainscale teachers can only drink instant; you need a lot of free time to juggle teaching and the disposal of ground coffee.

But mainly I dislike experts because, like consultants, they are professional parasites. They borrow your watch, tell you the time, then charge you the earth for doing it. We have an "expert" working with us at the moment. He is raising levels of achievement among our key stage 5 pupils by telling them how many times his book has been re-printed. The kids love him. For one thing he doesn't ask them difficult questions - he is too busy delivering anecdotes about the time he had lunch with the CEO of Walmart, or shared a McFlurry with the Queen. He is full of management speak, which fascinates them. I guess the first time I heard "There is no 'I' in team" I was also impressed.

Experts get a real ego-boost from coming into schools because kids are so easily entertained. It helps if the visitor has a dark past to dramatically disclose. It is a rare moment when you meet a visiting speaker who hasn't taken drugs, been expelled, or found God in the bottom of a bottle. During a recent author visit, the speaker capitalised on all three before his poignant finale: a call to action where he encouraged the kids to become better human beings by purchasing his entire back catalogue.

I'm wary of experts for a reason. In my former career in arts marketing, consultants were the bane of my life. When audiences dipped, we brought in experts who produced colossal relationship marketing strategies, the nub of which was "Use mail merge, introduce a Friends scheme, then sit back and watch the seat sponsorships rolling in." We did, and of course they didn't.

Education experts are worse. In a recent magazine interview, the chief executive of an organisation dedicated to tackling social inclusion, a former teacher who spent several years in the classroom, said the pupil he was most proud of was the daughter he had coached to a near-perfect score in the 11-plus. Not a lot of CVA in that.

Now, I may be a shit teacher, but I believe in what I do. Ask me who I'm most proud of and my answer would be Carl who, despite having a childhood that could be aired as an NSPCC advert, still managed to get his English GCSE. Or any kid who succeeds in spite of, not because of, their family background. It's worrying that for some people social inclusion is simply what pays the mortgage. Maybe some teams have an "I" in them after all.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.

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