Monday, June 20, 2005

Can you give it to me in six words or less?

I feel that I need to write about this ... even though it may hurt.

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Lynne Haultain of CPR Communications and Public Relations and regular radio personality about town (married to Francis Leach of JJJ fame). She invited me to a 'group ideas session' being organised for the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT).

Umm ... hello? I wasn't quite sure what she was asking.

After some further enquires, Lynne was happy to explain that the consultancy CPR, who do a lot of work for Victorian government agencies, has been contracted by the VIT (a Victorian 'Independent' government agency) to develop what Lynne called a 'communications strategy' for the next 5 or so years. It seems that CPR produced an initial report that recommended the VIT look at widening the scope of its activities beyond regulation and accreditation (into what, I can't say - and can only fear!) or risk being seen as ineffectual or out-of-step with the profession (did the VIT ever have credibility with the profession?) In response to this recommendation the VIT asked CPR to get together some 'movers and shakers' (my words!) and start generating some ideas for what the VIT could or should be doing for the profession over the next few years.

So if you are not bored yet (or perhaps intrigued) then you will be ...

I hesitantly said that I would go along ... if I could bring some friends!

The irony of course, is that last year (2004) I was fortunate to be involved with (along with some other researchers and some young, brilliant teachers) a significant University backed research project (with some VIT money) into the regulation and accreditation aspects of the VIT's work with graduate teachers. We gathered lots and lots of rich and generative data on the problems and issues (and some successes) of the process for full registration (too long to go into here - check VIT website if you're interested!) We thought that the VIT would be keen to get their teeth into it. We thought they'd be keen to publicise their efforts and ours (and the graduates who undertook the process). And we hoped they might be keen to open a genuine dialogue about how the process of professional accreditation for teachers might work and be used as a quality professional learning opportunity.

I'm not sure that we've hoped in vain, but it's hard to know whether the experiences of these teachers we interviewed have had much impact.

There has been little contact since we sent them some interview data.

Anyway, as I've tried to suggest, it came as some surprise to be asked to come along and talk about the challenges the profession faces over the next few years and to suggest the kinds of things the VIT might consider doing.

Before the 'ideas session', Jim Camm (director of The Australian Research Group a company connected to CPR of course) asked each of us to take a couple of minutes and jot down a list of problems of challenges confronting education. He encouraged us not to 'hold back', but strangely enough, not to spend a long time thinking too hard about what we suggested. These were then collated for the meeting and given out as 'those issues you have identified as important'.

The 'ideas generating session' turned out to be a complete insult.

Jim was reduced to what is undoubtedly his business mantra, 'Can you give that to me in six words or less?' as us leftie, commie, socialist teacher types tried to explain what it's like to teach to some corporate type who, it was more than obvious, had nothing but disdain (or perhaps 'frustration' is nicer) for us and our 'problems'.

So (and I'm over this now - ie writing about it that is) I must admit that I was expecting a little more - perhaps naively. I thought that perhaps there might be some glimmer, however small, of recognition and of understanding and of a desire to LISTEN to what we had to say.

But no.

Well, I must be fair to Jim, he was willing to listen ... if we had it in six words or less.

So I am left wondering about the efficacy of caring; of the surety that those in positions of political and legislative power do NOT understand the common struggles of teachers - generally because they do not want to or because understanding doesn't fit the proforma or on the page or on the glossy brochure.

I would be the first to admit that I do not understand the plights of legislators and of government bureaucrats trying to please and placate everyone (or at least those who I was able to hear) - a no win situation. But I'd like to think that I'd try.

So I was kind of depressed for about 5min. Then I realised that nothing had changed and that there are a billion and one people worse of that me and then I was happy again. I'll keep trying to do something, and something has got to be better than ... well it's more than six words anyway.


At 3:49 pm, Blogger Darce said...

That is why you are such a good teacher and researcher and friend - because you are passionate in your views and beliefs on those things that matter to you. Loved the rant S!


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