Friday, 1 July 2011

Taster Day ... or how to shoot yourself in the foot!

Today is Taster Day. This is a special day in our school's calendar because it is the day on which potential recruits for the September intake have the opportunity to sample the various courses that will be on offer.

At briefing on Tuesday – before quite a few staff (including myself) were told that their contracts were to be terminated on Friday 8th July instead of the following Friday 15th July – we were told in no uncertain terms to make sure that the taster sessions had lots of pizzazz and fun activities, as this would attract potential students … and that this would also help to secure the future employment of all existing staff. Furthermore, those of us who were to be specially ‘selected’ to teach these taster sessions were instructed to send our lesson plans and teaching materials to our respective Heads of Faculty as soon as possible … for vetting and approval.

Preparing a special taster session that has ‘lots of pizzazz and fun activities’ takes time ... and at this particular time of the year, there is quite of lot to do. Time for preparing special ‘one off’ lessons is – as a result – somewhat limited. Therefore setting up and teaching the taster sessions is seen as a bit of a chore by some of the staff who have minor management responsibilities, and as a result it is usually ‘passed on’ to the most junior members of each Faculty to do the preparation and teaching.

Now regular readers of my blog have probably already guessed what happened next … the specially ‘selected’ teachers included quite a few of the staff who were told after they had prepared their taster lessons that their contracts were to be terminated a week earlier than expected … with a consequent loss of salary. Today those same staff are expected to deliver those taster sessions with ‘lots of pizzazz and fun activities’ in order to recruit potential students to ‘help to secure the future employment of all existing staff.’

Am I the only person who thinks that this might just be a bit of a bad idea? Would a school’s ‘management’ be so inward looking not to see the potential of shooting oneself in the foot by making this sort of decision?

We shall see.

PS. I have got my taster sessions ready ... and I think that they meet the 'management's' criteria of having lots of fun activities that will attract potential recruits. I will also deliver it as well as I can; not because I have been told to, but because I still have some professional pride in wanting to teach as well as I can, whatever the circumstances.

PPS. Latest news! The senior member of staff responsible for timetabling the Taster Day has managed to put several different but conflicting activities in the same room at the same time ... things can only get better!

16 comments:

  1. And so it ends...

    Not in tears, but laughter.

    The laughter from the ludicrousness of life's rich tapestry.

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  2. Ashley,

    The organisation of the Taster Day is already beginning to come apart ... and it has only been going for just over 40 minutes!

    Laugh ... I nearly wet myself!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. I've had a similar experience, with a development team who built a web portal system being made redundant a week before the system was due to go live. It never occurred to Management that there might be any last-minute hitches that could only be fixed by the people who created the thing (and who incidentally were the only people who knew how it was supposed to work).

    Enjoy today, Bob. You've earned it.

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  4. I sense a disaster looming . . . and of their own making too.


    -- Jeff

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  5. Dr Vesuvius,

    You story has a familiar ring to it. I have heard of similar situations in other organisations ... and they have all ended badly.

    My sessions went well, and I know that the students who attended them gave good feedback to the 'management' ... which would have annoyed the latter intensely.

    It made my day.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. Bluebear Jeff,

    I suspect that you are absolutely right. Luckily I left before the end of the day, so I won't find out if anything went badly wrong until Monday.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Oh dear the BBC2 sitcom rolls on, I just hope "they" get their just deserts

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  8. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

    You are right; there are times that it feels like I am 'working' in a rather bizarre and somewhat surreal sitcom. All that is missing is the studio audience providing laughter in the right places.

    The problem is that I think that I am going to miss the madness when I am no longer part of it.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. According to a Cornell University study, incompetent people are actually unable to discern their own incompetence, or realize that others are vastly more skilled than they. Yet, I still don't pity them.

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  10. Gratuitous Saxon Violence,

    An interesting comment ... and I am sure that between us we could easily find numerous examples of the 'type' in the annals of military history.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Jeez Bob,

    Not only did they shoot themselves in the foot with this latest fiasco; they had that sucker on full automatic!

    By the by...I've been wondering for some time now, how History is taught in the public schools over there in Europe. Here in the States everything from 1492 to 1775 is ruthlessly crushed and compacted so the eager, young scholars will, maybe, get to the Eisenhower Administration by the time the school year ends. How do you cover the ever expanding "tale of years and events" in the time allowed?

    Hope you enjoy retirement,

    Martin

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  12. Martin,

    Not only was it on fully automatic ... they probably reloaded as well after they emptied the first magazine!

    I cannot comment on how History is taught elsewhere in Europe, but in the UK the coverage tends to be somewhat thematic rather than all-encompassing. For example Year 9 (13 to 14-year olds), are taught topics like 'Native Peoples of America', 'Slavery and the emancipation of Black Americans', and 'Twentieth Century History, including the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War'. By the time they reach post-16 education (i.e. where they study for the qualifications they need for university entry) the themes are more specialist (e.g. 'Russia under Stalin', 'Queen Elizabeth I', and 'The Labor Movement in the USA').

    Nowadays History teaching in the UK cannot hope to cover everything. One major drawback of the way it is taught is that students end up having little or no concept of chronology, even at university level.

    I hope that this information is of interest to you.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. Hi Bob,

    Yes, indeed it was of interest. I can see how the themes would cover the highlights (or lowlights), but it would sure play hob with continuity. I suppose the idea is for the teacher to plant the seed, and if the student becomes interested they will follow up on their own.

    I can't help but wonder how they're going to cope with it fifty years or so down the road.

    Thanks for your insight,

    Martin

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  14. Its a mad mad mad world out there Bob, all the best.

    Airhead

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  15. Martin,

    It was my pleasure.

    I don't know about what things will be like in fifty years time ... but I do know that some students are not coping with how History is currently taught!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  16. Airhead,

    Thanks for the best wishes.

    My problem is that I am not sure if the world is mad or I am; I hope that it is the former and not the latter ... but you never can tell!

    All the best,

    Bob

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