Andrew Wright has had enough of so-called training experts
Professional development is a subject close to my heart. As faculty manager, I am responsible for ensuring that science staff get quality in-service training, and over the years I've had my fingers burnt a few times - often at the hands of self-appointed experts (SAEs).
Self-appointed Expert 1: the Bearded Bumbler. These people have a permanently baffled expression and will start by apologising for being late. They are usually male, bearded and appear unperturbed that the school caretaker is better dressed than them. They rarely, if ever, get to the point -assuming they had one in the first place.
They may hail from the voluntary sector, from among the plethora of small, well-meaning educational charities. On paper their ideas are wonderful, but they have little experience of putting them into practice or communicating them to large audiences. The links such speakers have with education are oblique at best - their best friend's aunt's brother's mother once went on a visit to a school. They are thick-skinned and seem oblivious to the catatonic state of their long-suffering audience. Such speakers can be summed up in the standard SAE equation: the depth of their passion and intention to do good is inversely proportional to their ability to achieve a realisation of that good.
Self-appointed Expert 2: Slick Jims. Members of this group wear suits, own - and even know how to use - mobile phones, and carry briefcases. They may approach the school initially and ask for some time to talk to staff about their project. They will speak in pseudo-educationaljargon and will appear to know what they are talking about.
Often they are piloting a training programme and come offering a free sample and, contrary to that dictum about the best things in life, they will let you down big time.
Their slick presentations are built around a disastrous misapprehension of the relevance of their ideas to education. They will have - without exception - a vision for schools, which they want to share with you. Our particular Slick Jim was into meditation and the psychology of self-esteem, and spent two hours talking us through a post-mortem of his thinking on such topics. As with Bearded Bumblers, Slick Jims have little awareness of how irrelevant and out-of-touch their message is. Their only saving grace is that they're slightly more pleasant to look at.
The pain of my experiences with these characters still haunts me today. No one likes to be duped, particularly when the cost is measured in teacher time and enthusiasm. But Bumbler and Slick are still out there. I hope they will not darken your doors and curdle the goodwill and tempers of your hard-working staff.
Andrew Wright is a faculty manager for science at Angley School in Cranbrook, Kent