Friday, October 27, 2006

PD woes

Today (by that I actually mean yesterday - since I haven't been to bed yet it's hard to tell) was a godsend. Thursdays are without doubt my least favourite day of the week. Sure, it's not a patch on waking up thinking it's Saturday, going back to sleep and then waking up 15 minutes later realising it's only bloody Tuesday. But on Thursdays I teach the 5s and 6s. It's taken me a while to warm to them (I have been a junior teacher until now) but I like them now. That is, I like them except for the grade from hell, who I hate (and hate me). At least it's all mutual.

When I started art teaching VicePrin took me aside and said that I will finally see that each grade's personality is a direct reflection of their classroom teacher. I don't know about that. I've had some retarded grades in my time (and yes, okay, granted I *am* retarded), but I've also had a couple of quiet as mice, absolutely gorgeous grades too. I don't really believe in the theory that the grade is a direct reflection of the teacher in all cases, but in some cases this is true. Being the art teacher I get to see the progression of the grades' personality throughout the year. If a grade goes from naughty to nice in the space of 6 months then you know that the teacher has been working on interpersonal skills.

There is a particular teacher at the school who has a heart of gold. She's absolutely gorgeous. She inherited a grade that could have gone wrong. The elements of horror were there from the beginning. But now, they are lovely. The senior grades are like puppy dogs with paws too big for their bodies and so they keep tripping over themselves and not really knowing what to do. They need to be trained. This class has children taller than me (I'm about 5ft4 - I thought that was tallish for a chick?) and they don't intimidate me at all. Nice kids - and it's due to the teacher. I know - they didn't start out like that. The grade from hell though, did not start out as hell. They were always going to be bouncing off the walls because quirky kids do that but now they are loud, obnoxious little bastards. Guess what? So is their teacher.

Anyway, the point is: On Thursday I didn't have to teach the class from hell! I got to attend the PD from hell instead where I finally got to learn about the new curriculum document for art. Usually when art teachers get together it's a nice time. I like art teachers - they are usually relaxed kind of people who live outside the box. Hell, we spend all day inhaling paint fumes, I guess that's why, but art teachers are good people. That was what I thought anyway, until the PD where I realised that art teachers are a bunch of flakey freaks.

You know, all I wanted to do was go in and learn about how to assess and report on students under this new curriculum document. All I found out was that noone agrees with the document and that everyone is bogged down in policy and politics. Gee, that's a surprise - we're teachers of course we're bogged down in the crap. We live in the crap - but let's move beyond that and err, do some fucking learning. I have the same idea about the document coming out of that PD than I did going in - nada. At one point someone said, 'I tend to think if they've had a go then that's good enough for me' and I internally started rolling my eyes. If a kid comes to me with a bunch of unfinished rubbish in art class they get the look and a swift return to their seat for a reapplication of their 'skills'. I'm never especially mean about it but I know the difference between a kid who tried his best and it still looks shite and a kid who is an artist but couldn't be fucked doing a good job. The former gets much praise, the later gets a kick up the arse. I thought this was common practise. Apparently not.

No wonder we have no idea how to assess and report on kids. We're not all on the same page. With maths, there are a bunch of tests and you can do that will give you a general idea of what kids can and can't do. Art is a little more subjective - it's not so prescriptive. Even if we are teaching skills - there's that whole element of what is art anyway? I spend much of my lessons going on about how certain artists were never considered artists until late into their career, or after they died or how that point is still being debated now. I do that to demonstrate to those children who say that "I'm a bad artist" or who are told that their work sucks that art is subjective and that a lot of artists went about their lives being the only one to believe they were worth anything. Believing in yourself is a good thing, after all. Meanwhile, art or not, we turn around and give them a mark based on their apparent skills. Anyway, I'm still not really sure on the new document. I guess I need to find a better PD.

The PD was not why my day was a godsend though.
My day was a godsend because A (who I took along to the PD with me) and I got to sit down for lunch at Tiamo on Lygon, with real food and real wine and actually have a whole hour to EAT IT. We were in heaven. That's when I realised that this is how normal people operate. Real lunch, with real food and alcohol and not having to worry about the bell (expense account?). Job descriptions aside. If you get to do this even once a week or so I hope you appreciate it. It definitely beats a soggy vegemite sanga and a mouldy piece of fruit that you eat while running from the photocopier to yard duty, pulling on your construction worker's vest.