Being asked to present at a staff meeting is both flattering and appalling. Flattering because you have obviously achieved something worth sharing with your colleagues and appalling because you are being thrust into the spotlight of peer judgement. There is also immense pressure to be engaging and not cause people to fall asleep. Unlike the PowerPoint presentation — that went for three quarters of an hour, set to music, exploring all of PowerPoint’s special effects — of the school trip to the Northern Territory that has gone down in “What not to do when presenting at staff meetings” history at my school.
After being approached by the assistant principal a few weeks ago, I have lived in constant dread of my looming presentation. It’s silly, really, how we get all worked up about standing in front of other teachers when we stand in front of highly judgemental kids on a daily basis and think nothing of it. But, if kids talk when another student is presenting, we’re all about shutting them down and making sure the presenter gets their air time. As a teacher, it is highly likely that you will be contending with a few wisecracks from your friends as well as potentially looking out at the meeting and see colleagues attempting to online shop on their laptops without being caught.
To PowerPoint or not PowerPoint is a big dilemma. Obviously, there is nothing worse than having a presenter read from their dot points that we are all perfectly capable of reading for ourselves on the screen. There is also the distinct possibility that the technology may fail you at a critical moment and you’ll be left flailing with a presentation that was completely dependent on visual elements to work. On the plus side, PowerPoints have the appeal of distracting people from staring at you during the presentation, particularly if someone asks for the lights to be turned off so that they can see the presentation properly. It’s a tough call.
The day of my presentation came around quickly. Too quickly. It fell at the end of a full teaching day with a late extra of a lunchtime yard duty because Merryl had to leave with a nasty bout of gastro. (“Sorry to ask, Christina, but there’s no one else available to do it”) I admit that my last class of the day was set some silent tasks so that I could finalise the PowerPoint presentation that I should have finished days before but had planned to finalise over my lunch break.
As people gathered for the staff meeting, I busied myself setting up my laptop and getting the PowerPoint ready to go. I tried to ignore the silly faces being pulled by my friends and focus on what I had to do. I was uncharacteristically nervous and sweaty. Nauseous even. It wasn’t until I got in my car to go home that I realised I hadn’t been nervous at all. I had gastro. Thanks, Merryl.
Christina Adams is a member if the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian