Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Give 'em What They Want

"When red haired people are above a certain social grade their hair is auburn." - Mark Twain

You know, when I can't find a quote that has anything to do with the topic at hand, I quote Mr. Twain, because he was smart regardless of topic.

That said, I frequently find myself replying to Rachelle Gardner's posts over at her blog.   Often her posts and the others' responses get me to thinking, and often my own responses get me to thinking more.  Then, when I find myself writing an entire blog post in response, I decide to come on over here to make the point instead.

Anyway, her most recent topic is "Give Them What They Want," author style.  Ms. Gardner recently ran a series of guest posts for which people were invited to pitch ideas.  Some succeeded, clearly; she ran a brilliant series.  But she also pointed out how others had failed.  It wasn't necessarily that the ideas were bad; instead, it was that the pitchers didn't follow directions well enough for her to determine the appropriateness of the article pitched.  Some pitches were too long, others too short, and some lacked the necessary ingredients for her to make valid assessments.

Ms. Gardner had a responsibility, in this instance, to choose her submission requirement wording carefully to insure that she'd be able to judge which entries were best for her audience.  Moving this into my world, teachers likewise have a responsibility to choose our assignment wording carefully to insure that we'll be able to assess the student's grasp of the topic at hand.  Still, over the years I've seen the same errors that frustrated her.  "Design Layer 3 of a statewide data network that will provide e-mail, internet, intranet, and document storage services to..." means something specific.  I don't expect anybody who's not a senior IT student to get what it means, but take it from me that drawing a picture of the state with pretty little lines between all the cities I mention doesn't cut it.  Neither does submitting something that is an identical duplicate to someone else's; after all, I said "design" not "copy a design."

I see teacher applications miss the mark nearly every day as well.  Granted, I don't choose the wording carefully on the applications; somebody up at the Mother Ship, likely a feline human resources director as displayed in the funny comic strip, instead waved his magic wand over a computer and poof!  Out came an application.  Oh, most of the information is useful.  Some isn't.  Doesn't matter.  When I see somebody leave stuff out, whether it's useful or not, the omission tells me something specific about that potential employee.  And no, it's not a good something.

Likewise, I actually maintain a file of silly stuff I've seen on real-life teacher resumes.  I've had applicants tell me they're looking for an operations management job (on the faculty?  really?).  Or that they're looking for a great career--at one of my competitors.  Or that they love "snoboarding" or "gosspell music."  Again, that tells me something, and usually not what the applicant wants to tell me.

We're in the process of applying for a renewal of our grant of accreditation.  It's not something I'd call particularly fun, but it's not altogether too rough of a process either.  The accreditor sends a document with a bunch of questions, and you answer them and send it back. Here's the hard part--you have to give 'em what they want.  If, for example, they ask how the curriculum was developed, they want you to describe the process you use to develop the curriculum so that they can tell whether you follow a rational process or toss a bunch of course names into a box and pull a certain number out till you get a set that's long enough.  If they ask about how the library collection supports the curriculum, they don't want a memoir of the librarian's life.  Specific questions merit specific answers. 

This theme plays out through a great many areas of our lives.  Sometimes it's best to just--well, give 'em what they want.


No comments:

Post a Comment