What do you do when you attend a Continued Professional Development session with no starting Professional Development to Continue?
It was this exact predicament I found myself in when, having left the house at 7.30am for a two hour journey that only took one and a half at that time in the morning on a Saturday for a course that was only meant to start at 10am (9.30am for tea and biscuits), I arrived at my first ever controller Continued Professional Development. Before you ask, yes I am someone who arrives at an airport four hours early for a flight. No I do not have any intention of relaxing on this front.
After sitting in the car for a while to make sure I wasn't the first in (but apparently also to show that I WAS the most neurotic), I did what any sane (no comments please) person would do, went in and made myself a cup of tea before trying to find someone to talk to.
Like mother like daughter. The great Mumma B circa 1988 with witty caption from Dad
Fortunately I wasn't billy-no-mates for long as the lovely Henry Symington - who you may remember from the last post - was there to take me under his wing. A room of about 60% male and I'm going to say 95% noticeably older (let's not be mean I'm not putting a number to it) people is quite a daunting thing to be faced with so as we went into the introduction to the day I was beginning to feel a little wobbly...
Hands down. The welcome and introduction was one of the strangest moments of my life. I've done a lot of competing all over the country, and this was a room full of voices that... I just KNEW. They were so familiar and yet the faces attached to them were not; people who had talked about me and my horse, about how my mum has a shirt with "unpaid groom" on the back, how I told my dissertation supervisor I had given up riding until exams and so if anyone was asked, they "hadn't seen a Tessa Bishop at the event today, you think she's in the Library", people who had documented my clear rounds (and my not so clear ones). But I'd never met them and they had less than no idea who I was or what I was doing there.
What I ended up doing there was being sorted into a group of six "real" controllers (who I was very open about having no experience at all whatsoever with) and going through six workshops.
1. Incident Management
3. Paperwork Completion
4. Course Walk, Radio Plan and Radio Briefing
5. Mock Control Box
6. Team Building/Management
Incident management (taken by Mr Symington) or "Death Doom and Destruction", involved your step by step processes for what to do when things go wrong. For me it was the absolute perfect place to start. By this point (hour 3 of the day) I had started to feel more than a little out of my depth. Even the other trainee in our group had two years more experience than I did and among our number was Chris Farr, controller at Blenheim Horse Trials, hugely important and, helpfully, sat next to me. Starting the day with Henry (and thankfully everyone else in my group) taking me fully under his wing banished all my feelings of inadequacy. Henry went through what do do when you have an accident: "1. Red Light. 2. alert the Emergency services. 3. Assess the situation..." which was supplemented with advice and experience from the other members. I came out raring for the other sessions with the benefit of the group's combined experience under my belt, I might as well have been doing it for years.
The other sessions ran like clockwork and as you would expect them to. Commentary (taken by Claire Prentice who you might remember from the last post) gave me a new appreciation for not writing essays on your "commentator information" entry slip (but do include some colour) and the importance of managing potential battle stations in the box while keeping your voice absolutely serene. It was apparently a bit of a surprise when I insisted in Radio Briefing (details what you should include when you give the fence judges a run down of their roles and what you expect from them) that I had attended and concentrated on one before. Well actually I think the surprise was that I've listened to so many I once competed in the morning and upon crossing the finish line was bundled into a car by my mother and kicked out at a fence on the far side of the course on my own to fence judge for the next class without a briefing. That is apparently "unprecedented".
By the end of the day, I was tired, VERY excited to start, but presented with another issue. Claire Prentice already had too many trainees, Henry - at a six hour round trip - was just a bit too far to be my controller mentor, and while I'd wrangled my way into enough conversations to have spoken to others (without exception lovely) I still had no mentor. I had a plan though. The great thing about being the youngest, BY FAR the least experienced, having been super enthusiastic and happy to take any advice going is that after a while people want to help you out (probably because they knew I needed it). Five minutes after worriedly dropping into conversation that I had had no luck in finding a mentor a network had popped up working out who was in the right location and I had offers from all over the place for a seat in a box.
Introduction to controlling? Check. Mentor? Cheeecckkkk. Now just to get cracking