In her eleventh diary entry, Maria Alamanou describes a rare professional development experience in Greece

This week’s entry focuses on Continuing Professional Development (CPD), in honour of a recent hilarious experience I have had. You must be wondering how anything as serious as CPD can be laughed about. Well, you know me; I can sniff out an opportunity for a good laugh anywhere! But I’ll try and be serious for the sake of comprehension. We begin with the premise that teachers are a rare breed of people, dynamically evolutionary by nature, or at least they should be. Therefore, it is only natural that teachers are the most fanatic adherents to CPD and the ones who wouldn’t leave a stone unturned if it meant picking up some new skills here or a few good tips there.

This is exactly where the problem lies, for here, in Greece, at least, CPD is a dimension that has always and persistently been grossly disregarded. State-registered-teachers’ training courses and seminars are few and far between and if it is the private sector we’re talking about, CPD is left entirely to one’s own devices. Surprisingly, though, it is in the private sector that dedicated professionals, in the face of rising costs and at the expense of the little spare time they have, strive to keep up with the latest trends in teaching and pedagogy. Independent professional organisations, operating on a strictly voluntary basis, come to the aid of such long-suffering professionals and, I must admit, the better part of their services is worth our while.

That said, you can understand how pleasantly surprised I was at getting a phone call about a month ago from a state-run organization of which all professionals and small businesses are members, informing me that two 60-hour, free-of-charge training courses had been programmed for Professionals and small businesses and was I interested in attending either the Computer Technologies course or the Business Administration one. I dutifully registered my interest in the latter with them, following which an endless flood of paperwork and formalities came my way. The caller did her best to persuade me that time was of the essence and would I be kind enough to fill in and return all the forms i m m e d i a t e l y! There I was, then, out of nowhere, dropping everything I had been doing and delving into a mass of paper, filling in the same details all over the place.

It was a struggle, but living in Greece prepares you for these sort of last-minute, all-out-panic emergencies and eventually you learn to cope pretty effectively. I returned the papers, which were again i m m e d i a t e l y approved, and got back an answer in record time. Schedule in hand, I was now ready to take up my well-earned place on the course, starting the following Monday (it was on a Friday I took the call), while thanking my good fortune for a change. I even praised the swift way in which all the formalities had been taken care of and started to believe that all was not lost since, finally, the State had decided to take notice.

That was until I got to the place. Once there, I was initially directed to the third floor, where, what should I find but empty classrooms along empty corridors and not a soul in sight from which to get some decent information. Outside Room 3 and after a fair amount of squinting and conjecturing, I made out a stark warning – in very fine print, mind you – that all courses for the day were to be held on Floor 2, in Room 2, which turned out to be none other than the Computer Lab. I thought nothing of it at first, for in this day and age, one tends to take technology for granted.

There were some twenty-five participants in all, waiting patiently for the course tutor to appear, which he did, eventually, followed promptly by the administrator of the course. She said she would ‘very quickly be done with the preliminaries’ and leave us in peace to revel in our new, exciting venture. I don’t recall much of what she said, for the man sitting next to me had by that time engaged in idle conversation with literally everyone in the room. I thought of classroom management and what a shame it was for a grown-up to be showing such disrespect to the speaker. But then I heard him saying he was in the Insurance business and started suspecting foul play. In a matter of seconds I was informed that I was the only teacher/ school-owner in the room. Then, the administrator was gone and the tutor introduced himself. The first question he posed to his audience was: ‘O.K., now, are we all familiar with basic terms such as 'mouse', 'monitor', 'CPU', etc?’

I couldn’t see where this was going and it was even more difficult for me to comprehend why only two of the trainees mumbled a barely audible ‘yes, we think so’ in response to the tutor’s question while the rest of them were shrugging their shoulders in complete ignorance. The next forty-five minutes were the most agonising I have ever spent in my entire life, listening to weird, frightening descriptions of what some trainees thought a memory card and a modem were. I thought I could scream! At recess, I stormed out of the room in frantic search of the administrator. I found her, snuggly sitting in one of the classrooms, a cup of steaming coffee in one hand, a cigarette in the other, pleasantly chatting with her assistant. After the worst had passed, we were able to strike some sort of balance: she explained that there hadn’t been enough participants to cover both courses and had therefore decided to accommodate both Computer Technologies and Business Administration classes in one uniform suite.

And then I did something that was completely out of character: I let the woman have a piece of my mind as to her administrative ability and dropped out of the course as swiftly as I had entered it. I laughed all the way back to my school at how gullible I had been and decided, firmly and irrevocably, that my CPD should be left to my own devices!