Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Job

I will soon receive my first paycheck so I feel I can write a bit about my new job. Of course, it is not a real paycheck; it is a direct deposit of my month's earnings. What is it about me and monthly pay? It really doesn't matter whether you get paid weekly, every two weeks, twice a month, or monthly, but it is a good thing we are used to it. Sure seems like a long time betwen getting paid, but it all works out the same.
Anyway, my job is fascinating. All I really am is a guidance counselor for a big high school, one with thousands of students. Only problem is that I never meet any of them in person. I spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing transcripts, which come from all fifty states and over a hundred foreign countries, not that I have seen ones from all those places. Although, if you can read Afrikaans, I need your help.
Every once in a while, I get to talk to a student, but generally it is all done by email. I have actually talked to more moms than I have students so far. I get excited when I talk to real students, whether it is the dropout whose counselors and teachers think is really smart, with a great future, or the nationally ranked figure skater finishing up Advanced Placement classes to enter an eastern university in the fall. Those might be the only two US students I have talked to this month, but I really like both of them and hope to be part of their either future or continued success.
I knew that we drew a fair number of students who were very good athletes, the kind that move away from home and go to these camps where they practice several hours a day under serious coaching, then do school work for a few hours. And I knew we had entertainers, young people whose singing/dancing/acting success did not allow them to attend traditional schools. But what surprised me was how many equestrians go to our school, although I should say, take our classes. I see equestrian stuff on the TV in Olympic years, but otherwise don't think much about it. Now I have a reason to watch if I ever see it on the screen again, because I might have talked to or worked with the competitors.
However, most of our students are not famous people or athletes. They have their own reasons for not going to traditional school, whether it be that they are sailing around the world with their parents, or some other reason, often quite personal.
The other thing worth mentioning is how damned efficient this whole organization is. Over 70 people work in this building, the old Cushman place between 20th and 22nd on Vine Street in Lincoln, right next to that huge abandoned junior high school. We are a small cog in a big wheel here, as the department I am part of, Extended Education and Outreach, does many things beyond an independent study high school. EE&O does all the distance education and College Independent Study,, graduate and undergraduate, the Summer Reading program, Fire Protection and noncredit programs. We have staff who prepare, actually write and design classes, staff who make this available on-line. We have really efficient clerical staff who take orders, file massive amounts of paperwork and do lots of little things I would be used to doing myself. We mail thousands of books and syllabi around the world from this building, but our tech people keep a system up and running that allows students to do assignments on-line, and to instantly know their grades.
All of our teachers are part-time contract employees. There are only three of us who work here who are full-time, although the two half-time teachers both know lots more about how the place works than I do. There is a Director, an Associate Principal, and the Academic Adviser(me). Pam remembers when they had 15 to 20 teachers, madly grading massive amounts of mail. Now, some, though not nearly all of that is done automatically. The student does the evaluation, enters answers on-line, clicks, and gets their grade. Teachers still grade closed book tests, and projects mailed in.
And while maybe I'll notice something else later, it really seems to be an organization with a shared goal, no bickering or hassles. People seem to work well together to make the operation run smoothly.
More later.

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