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Posts Tagged ‘frustrated

 
I am in the middle of an intense grading exercise. This happens every semester because I get at least one Friday class which has deadlines on Friday evenings. This means that I burn weekends to give timely feedback to my students.

This practice is not unusual because I was a teacher and professor. I am married to a teacher and my parents were teachers. Marking scripts on weekends is a sad family norm.

What I find irritating is that I need to have at least five (sometimes six) web browser tabs open to provide feedback and grade. These is a tab each for:

  1. The institutional LMS (to access the online scripts)
  2. The feedback tool (for commenting on student work)
  3. A timer (because the LMS page times out every 30 minutes)
  4. A Google Sheet (for recording my marks)
  5. A Google Doc (for backing up my comments)

When I am in a public place like a library, I have a sixth tab to play soothing music through my headphones. I do this to drown out inconsiderate users who talk in the study space.

Technically I should need only three tabs open: The LMS (to get the scripts), the feedback tool (to read and comment on them), and the Google Sheet (to record the marks).

However, the auto-timeout of the LMS page requires me to refresh it, so I need the timer to remind me. If I do not pay attention, the LMS page times out in the background and my last set of comments does not get saved. The feedback tool also just freezes.

I need the Google Doc tab to back up my comments. I have been burnt by a systems administrator who removed my LMS account and its data (all the assignment comments), so I need the Google Doc for continuity between semesters.

Then there are the people who talk in the library… sigh. Ambassador-at-large, Tommy Koh, recently described us as a first world country with third world citizens. It is the small things that add up. Small things like being considerate in a shared space.

Needing five (or six) tabs open to grade and give feedback is a first-world problem. But the problems that cause them have been around for as long as Man has soiled the Earth.

This rant has been brought to you by Misanthrope Plus.

Count your blessings if you do not have to deal with customer “service”. I must have been cursed to need to communicate with three different groups this week. But ever the optimist, I link my negative experiences with lessons on learning.
 

 
My first encounter was to arrange a redelivery with a courier company that I had never heard of. I Googled for information and found their site.

Like most modern companies, their site had a lot of information and an option to type in a reference number. However, the number was handwritten poorly on the delivery chit. Whatever number I keyed in gave me an empty return.

I resorted to calling their hotline, and while the customer service representative was polite enough, he also could not find the reference number. We eventually used other information to find the package.

When rearranging a delivery time, he offered a wide 9am to 6pm window on a weekday. This meant waiting at home, potentially the whole day, for a package. I asked for a weekend delivery with a smaller delivery window.

The problems here were bad human handwriting and ridiculous delivery windows. Both are examples of not putting the customer first — writing in a way only the delivery person understands and wanting to redeliver when no one is at home.

The first thing an expert forgets is what is it like to struggle with learning.

Just as there was no empathy for the customer, teachers sometimes forget what it is like to be a student. If you forget what it is like to struggle with learning, then there is no point teaching.
 

 
My second call of the week was to arrange for the recycling or responsible disposal of a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that had stopped working.

I called a service number and discovered that I had three options: Bring the item in to an industrial office, pay a courier to deliver it, or arrange for pickup based the convenience of the company.

A UPS is heavy and I was not going to lug it to an industrial area that typically has poor access via public transport. I had already paid for the UPS and was not about to pay for its collection.

So I got the instructions to send an email — to an address that was not listed at the company’s website — to arrange for pickup. I received an automated reply with a reference number. And nothing else. No schedule, no instructions, nothing.

The main problem in this case was a broken promise because someone forgot to combine human effectiveness with technological efficiency.

If you cannot reach them, you cannot teach them.

The reminder to teachers is a mantra I repeat: You must reach them to teach them. This goes beyond delivering content and providing critical information. It means following up and providing feedback until there is clear evidence of learning.

Singapore's Mos Eisley, Sim Lim Square, is still a hive of scum and villainy.

My third encounter was to find a replacement UPS. To get a good deal, I looked for alternatives at Singapore’s equivalent of Mos Eisley, Sim Lim Square (SLS).

While some scum and villainy still exists, SLS has cleaned up its act and I know a few reputable stores. Reputable, but not dependable.

I looked up price lists and contacted one shop by SMS since the contact number was plastered prominently on its website. I did not receive a reply and called two-and-a-half hours later. The lady realised I was the same person who send the SMS and told me that they had contacted the supplier.

This would have been a fine response if my question was: Did you contact the supplier? It was not. Instead, I had asked: Do you have this item in stock?

I applaud her anticipation in answering the second question, but she did not answer the first. She did not inform me via SMS or a phone call that it was not available.

Immediately after the phone call, I received an SMS reply repeating what we already talked about.

The problem here is not just inertia or not being able to communicate in a timely manner. It is assuming that the customer knows what is going on (the item was not available and they were trying to get a supplier to deliver one).

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

In teaching, it is easy to assume that learners understand things the way you do. Easy does not mean that it is right. The learner does not have the same experience and mental schema as the teacher. Learning is a messy process and teachers who already see the order may forget what it is like to tidy up.

There are little things in everyday life that can remind educators what we can do to be effective pedagogues. We just need to be open, critical, and reflective.


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