Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Life of an Administrator: Pick Your Own Adventure

I haven't done this exercise in some time.  If you're wondering what it would be like to be an administrator, this blog post will show you.  Simply choose 3-4 of the items below, and you see what a day would be like.  Keep doing that, and you'll know what a week or a year would be like.  Keep in mind that some days are lovely and relaxed, while others are full of unpleasantness--and the stress comes from rarely knowing in advance which day will be which.


--You know the benefits of exercise, so you start the day with a 6:30 spin class.  After a quick shower at the gym, you go to work.

--Get to the office early so that you can get real work done.  Some days, you do.  Other days, you have to get mindless tasks out of the way, like deleting excess e-mails so that your system doesn't crash before the day is over.

--Spend 2 hours exchanging e-mails with a student who is convinced that your school should accept his class from a previous school, even though he earned a grade of D, and your school, like almost every other school, only accepts classes with a grade of C or higher.  The student threatens to go to the dean.  You give the dean's contact information to the student.  Then you spend more time sending the dean an e-mail with background info, in case the student follows through.

--Work on long-term projects like assessment or scheduling classes.  Maybe you have some decisions about the budget.

--Meet with a woman who would like to teach in your department.  Unfortunately, you don't foresee a time when you will have openings.  After talking to her, you realize that she has skills that would mesh well with a different department..  You send her materials to that department chair, and you're happy to learn that she might have opportunities in the different department.

--A student comes to complain about one of your faculty members, but the faculty member has done no wrong.  In fact, if the student had read the syllabus, the student would know that the faculty member had, in fact included rubrics and detailed instructions for assignments.  You marvel at the syllabus, which has given you everything you need to know to tell the student how to pass the class.  The student came to you in a sullen mood, but leaves inspired to really try to do the work.  You are hopeful, but tired, as the interchange has taken over an hour.

--Go to a meeting.  Wait for 15 minutes before you realize that the meeting must have been cancelled as you were walking to it.

--Go to a meeting.  Spend 2 hours wondering how any of this information applies to your department.

--Observe a class.  Marvel at the fact that real work is still being done in the classroom.  You realize you've spent too much time reading about the problems with higher education.  In the classes that you observe, you're seeing rigorous instruction and students who are being trained in critical thinking skills.  Not for the first time, you wonder if you should go back to teaching.

--Go to a meeting.  Realize that you're lucky to be working with such smart people.

--A student walks into your office to complain about a teacher.  The student quickly realizes that you're not going to change the grade and fire the teacher.  The student's voice gets louder.  The student's face contorts with anger.  You think about the administrative assistant who sits a wall away.  You wonder if she would hear you if you shouted for her to call security.  You send the student to the dean when he pulls out his cell phone and says, "Should I call my lawyer?  I have my lawyer on speed dial."  You are relieved when the student leaves.  You send an e-mail to the dean in charge of academics in case he goes to that office.  You send an e-mail about the student's behavior to the dean of student affairs so that there will be a paper trail, should something dreadful happen.

--You try to remember to get up and walk around the building.  You want to do this every hour or two.  Some days, you do.  Other days, you realize it's been far too long since you went to the bathroom.

--Return missed phone calls.  Wonder why the new and improved telephone system makes everyone sound so garbled.

--Some days you delight in having a restorative lunch with colleagues.  Most days you eat warmed leftovers or a cup of yogurt at your desk.

--Answer e-mails.  Wonder if people really sent this many memos when everything was on paper.

--If you're spiritual, you try to remember to pray for all the people in the buildings.  Or maybe you try some meditation techniques.  You wish you could light a candle, but you're aware of the dangers of a distracted administrator and a candle.  If you're spiritual, you try to cultivate a garden of gratitude, and you pray for forgiveness when you fail miserably.

--Answer more e-mails.  Ever more e-mails.

--A student wanders into your office.  The student tells you how a class should be taught.  You wonder if you had that smug know-it-all attitude when you were 19.  Knowing that you did, you maintain patience.

--Evaluate transcripts:  high school transcripts from people who want to come to college, college transcripts from students who want to have work they did elsewhere count here.

--You know that exercise is important.  Some nights you leave in time for spin class.  Other nights, you have other commitments that take priority.

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