This past weekend has been the first or four probationers’ conferences. (The next one, including the candidates’ conferences, will be seven of nine thus establishing the uneasy link that we are being assimilated into the CofS collective. Apologies for the obscure trekkie reference. I am not a trekkie – my brain just makes these bizarre trivia links at times.) It’s a very different atmosphere to candidates’ conferences I’d say. It’s also quite a different ‘style’. That’s not really the correct word, but I can’t think of what I mean. Yes it’s a series of presentations, with discussion groups, tasks and so on, but they’re just ‘different’.
One of the key issues of course is that the sessions are not attempting to be relevant to such a broad range of educational and placement experience. Pretty much everyone at a probationer conference has done all their academic and placement training. So there is a more definable baseline for one.
I think there’s also the sense that this is the last lap. The reality of a charge is beginning to loom on the horizon (and I’ve already blogged about how quickly that point seems to be approaching, even here at the beginning of my fifteen months). That means there is a heightened sense of needing to accumulate and consolidate knowledge and ideas. The ‘been there, done that’ attitude quickly gives way to thinking, “Do I know this as well as I need to?” That’s combined with sessions that are (generally) much more focused anyway.
I also have to comment on the group dynamic. It’s quite a disparate group this year (moreso than in years past, I’m told). There is no one particular year group or university group which dominates. In one respect this is a good thing – there are fewer group ‘outsiders’. It does mean though that ‘close’ relationships are in much smaller groups. One of the things about the social time at candidates’ conferences is that you build up a network of trusted colleagues, who know each other well, are supportive and understanding and with whom one can share… well, almost anything. I’m not suggesting that such relationships will not be created, but that there is a slight sense of starting from scratch as each of us ‘susses out’ the others. Whether that will have any sort of knock-on effect on support networks later on will need to wait and see. I guess it’ll just take a little longer for that ‘comfort’ level to be built up.
Regardless, this weekend marked a milestone on the road – a road that is fast turning into an expressway towards a destination which, although still unknown in detail, carries a growing sense of excitement and purpose.
Roll on the next one and further assimilation.