Sunday, September 4, 2011

Working at a Secondary School —
Orderliness, Planning, Precision

(Continued from 30 August)

When we started working at the school the class timetable was a mess. Subjects were not allocated their correct number of periods for each week, for instance. A form one student in one class might get six periods of math each week, whereas a form one student in the other class would only get two periods. Huh?

Granted, I've come to appreciate what an extremely complex problem it is to make a school timetable. Fortunately, I found a piece of computer software to help create schedules that are complete, correct, consistent and satisfy most of the preferences of individual teachers. Because of the software I can do this work in two days, a task that would occupy months if done entirely manually.

Still, the previous lack of a good timetable is so indicative of the disorderliness that is so common. The class timetable drives the day to day operation of the school. It is essential to get it right even if it is difficult and tedious to do so.

The lack of order appears in a number of ways: the chaotic and uncoordinated scheduling of events and activities; the lack of appointments and advance notice; the scarcity of thoughtful planning; inaccurate, haphazard record keeping; and more. I have to tell our students to use the same name everywhere (preferably with a proper family name) and to always spell it the same way.

There are basic ways of thinking, working, and managing things that I take for granted as second nature. They are not! Some mental habits I have let go of because I've come to see that they don't matter. For example, I've gotten comfortable with visitors who just show up with no notice. I've learned to improvise on the spot what to do to try to meet the purpose of their visit. Since we are given no time to prepare, nothing seems to be expected.

However, if you want an organization (or a society, or a country) that works well, runs efficiently and is productive in the material sense, then some things do matter. So maybe these are what foreigners like us should be not only modeling but explicitly teaching and mentoring: not only knowledge and skills in math, sciences, and computers, but also, the ability to think and work more precisely, to plan ahead, to better organize the use of people, and to pay attention to efficiency; and along with those, an appreciation for why they are important.


1 comment:

  1. Earl, the hardest job at ANY high school is creating the Master Schedule. It is the MOST IMPORTANT SINGLE TASK that must be done - and the LEAST POPULAR SINGLE TASK that exists at our high schools. The poor souls who perform this task form an underappreciated and long-suffering club who will understand your headache and frustration. Welcome to their club!