Much of Symphony in a Minor Key is based closely on personal experience. The conference that Neil and Carmen attended is of that species. I attended the real conference on which this fictional one was based. Call it a close paraphrase, complete with the same opening exercise, although they used an excerpt from A Clockwork Orange instead of a Burns poem.
I have endured hundreds of these meetings. Some were after school, on our own campus. Some were away and multi-day. All of them cost the district money which was not well spent, and cost me time that could have been better spent shooting pool. Or sleeping. Or — I often thought at the end of a long day — shooting myself.
Some of the presenters were prophets of some new panacea. Some were just trying to do something they thought was useful. Some were shysters, plain and simple. Some were just trying to make a living. Some — I am convinced — had no training for anything but education, but had discovered they couldn’t stand kids, and had to do something else to make a living that justified the years they spent in college.
A few were competent. Very, very few.
A friend and fellow teacher told me, when I was just beginning, that the only job in education worth doing is teaching in the classroom. If you are thinking, “What else is there?”, you clearly have not experienced the phalanx of bureaucrats who make up a large part of the education community.
I thought she was right at the time, and thirty-plus years later, I am convinced of it.
Teaching, like any other profession, has its moments. Sometimes it is wonderful. Sometimes it is terrible, and never more so than at conferences where those who know little try to teach those who know better.
And yes, like Neil, when I couldn’t take it any more, I would raise my hand, smile innocently, and bait the crazies.
Truth be told, I did that a lot.