Wednesday, February 4, 2015

More than the Sum of My Shredding

When we moved buildings, I kept several boxes of old assessment papers.  We had accreditors coming at some point, and I didn't know if they'd want to see the materials.

I stashed the boxes on a bookcase, which doesn't bother me.  To my mind, all the paperwork is neat and tidy in a box that once held reams of paper.  I had 4 of these boxes.

The bookcases are in a common hallway/waiting area, and our person in charge of Interior Design has decided that it's time to clean up the bookcases.  Black binders can stay, but boxes cannot.

There was much discussion of what needed to be done.  Just throw them all in the dumpster!  Alas, no, the materials contain grades and student IDs, and I am not going to be fired because private information falls in the wrong hands.  Take it to a storage room!  Where would that be, exactly?

No, I decided that it was time to grit my teeth and do what would be done eventually.  So I spent part of yesterday sorting the materials into stuff to be shredded and stuff to be recycled.  Unfortunately, our shredder can only do so much, so I'll just shred a bit, day by day. 

Yes, I've done this before (see this post, which also has poems inspired by this process).  But yesterday was different because I had done so much of the original collecting of the materials.  It was also different because I knew so many of the people who had done the assessments that they turned in.

We've changed our assessment process many times since we first started on this path in 2008 or so.  We used to assess individual classes, and now we assess the larger programs.  My old boss used to be in charge of a lot of the process early on, and I still had those e-mails in a box--e-mails from people who are mostly no longer employed here.

I remember how much time we spent on all of these materials.  We gathered them, which meant lots of planning to gather them.  We assessed them, which also involved planning and writing reports.  And no one--not one person--has ever asked to see them.

I'm trying not to see it as a giant metaphor that sums up my work life.

And then, later in the day, it was time to update the current assessment document.  Now I don't collect materials.  I go to online course shells and find the numbers that I need.  I did that, I did the math, I entered numbers into yet another chart.  Later I will create some language about how we'll use the results to improve student learning.

We have shifted from collecting no data to collecting so much data that we never have time to actually try to figure out what it all means.  Or, we know what it means, but it's not clear how to fix it.  We've made the easy fixes.  The harder fixes involve students who stop coming to class or those who come with such minimal skills that it will take more than one class to bring them up to speed.

Today I will not be sorting.  Today I will be spending the morning at a mandatory training session on corrective action and creating better employees.

Perhaps I will take refuge in an old comfort.  My poem "Meeting Hell" (see this post) came from an endless meeting where I started writing rhyming lines and kept going--thus hell turned to delight.

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