When People Power is lost

When People Power is lost.

As I sat through a three hour meeting listening to a system about student placements being explained that was so complicated and boring it was amusing …then I just had to put pen to paper and record the way I felt.

In the last 2 years I have taken a career break from lecturing in a college and have taken myself off to teach in an International school in Spain.

A private school with 300 pupils and 30 staff.

Now having arrived back in the college in N. Ireland and getting ready for the new academic year after 2 years away, it has become increasing clear to me that people no longer talk to people.

Ok …let me explain what I am trying to say. When I joined the college 8 years ago it was a college that served the local community. Systems were not so computerized and many messages and requirements were relayed verbally from one person to another. The college was small enough that we could do that. To be fair it did present a few challenges but we muddled through, had a few laughs and generally achieved what we had set out to do.

Then some years ago the college joined with three other colleges to become a larger identity and of course more efficient than the local version that had gone before.

So did that happen?

Well let me elaborate and then you be the judge.

Everything is now computerized… we take on board one system after another, we email each other which saves time as we do not have to find each other and verbally communicate the problem or ask the question. Forty emails a day is normal.

So I sit in this meeting for three hours listening to this very sophisticated system being explained and I am wondering why I have been back at the college for three days and still have not been able to get a password to log onto my account?

Three or four emails sent from my head of school to another staff member in some other campus, in some other room on some other floor, then roughly 3 or 4 messenger emails and still no password.

In the school in Spain to get a password for my account I walked down a flight of stairs to the ground floor, spoke to Jero the IT technician and it was set up in 30 secs…..Hooray for Jero!

As I sit in this terribly boring meeting listening to this complicated and lengthy system on organizing placements I make a decision on the coffee break to hunt down one of these techie people and get them to set me up a password .

There was a rumor going round at coffee that one was in the building.

So off I head and a few floors down managed to find one behind his computer.

Viola! I had a password set up in 30 seconds and even more than that …it works!

So back to the meeting room to listen to another hour of…. ticking off this box here, choose this from the drop down menu here, typing this in here and if you take a breath make sure you record it

I drifted off into a daydream wondering

When did people stop talking to people?

Has this organization now become so large in an effort to become efficient that the core elements of human communication are being eroded?

While we sit for hours listening to the complexities of the latest system that someone has dedicated their life to, it has taken me three days, many emails and messengers to set up a simple password!

Something that was achieved very quickly in the end with just with a little verbal communication.

I know what you are thinking?

The word “old fashioned” or “old school” may have crossed your mind and I forgive you for that but you are wrong…… I love technology.

As a Biology and Health lecturer you can imagine that my subject is very visual and I use all sorts of media to get the message across to my students. Technology and particularly media has made a massive difference to my classroom teaching, I would say it has made my teaching easier.

That is not what I am talking about here. Where I am going with this is the fact that there seems to be a race on to see how many systems can be created for tasks that were initially done manually. Tasks like filling out a form, making a telephone call and talking to someone or meeting them in person.

Tasks that are no more efficiently done by making them complicated computerized tasks which in the final analysis only succeed in creating a greater administrative workload for the educator that has to do them.

When I relayed this observation to my colleague ..I was enlightened by her response with the instructions from “the top”

“If you are under a lot of pressure and it comes between the administrative task and the teaching task then make sure you do the administrative task”

Guess that says it all!

Spain I miss you !!!