Saturday, May 17, 2008

Looking at the PW results some colleges have been able to achieve in the previous project work cycle, it's easy to get the impression that an 'A' grade in the subject is a dime-a-dozen, and that there's some kind of magic formula that when followed makes scoring top marks possible. Perhaps there is, perhaps there is a way to template the perfect project, and it's tempting to do so for the sake of the grade. But I don't see the point of following a formula as if there was only one single solution to every problem we're going to encounter in life.

A template is like a join-the-dots puzzle, success involves just pencilling a line from digit to digit. So the 'A' grade via template is just an acknowledgement of how well the kids followed their instructions. How difficult can that be, tracing a pre-determined path to create derive a pre-determined picture? What a surprise! When a toddler is able to do this we remark how clever it is. These are college students we are dealing with. What's an 'A' worth these days?

Which is why I get disturbed when I hear tell of students' proposals getting rejected outright and sent back to the drawing board because the proposal didn't live up to the super's pre-conceived expectations. We're supposed to be working with the students on this, not against them. So I'm not surprised when some kids eventually see the whole thing as a waste of time, because literally what amounts to hours of work gets summarily dismissed and there's no progress to show for it. They get bored, resentful, and lose confidence in their project. When it's time to make their presentations that's what gets reflected. Ironically, aming for an 'A' grade like this becomes counter-productive to both the grade and the learning behind it.

Fortunately, the groups I have seem motivated and have delivered creative and meticulously crafted proposals, so I don't have to worry too much over WHAT they are planning. I'll keep an eye on them to see HOW they are carrying out their plans, but at least they're off and running already. I can do my real job of supervision by managing group dynamics and being basically a cheerleader and resource for them, but I have firmly taken my hands off the micromanagement controls and am letting them run the nitty-gritty on their own.

I already have a group dysfunction to manage -- mainly a self-interest vs group-interest conflict -- but this is where the super's real work begins. Of course there will be conflicts; that's what we were hoping for when we threw separate individuals together to work as a group. How the different personality types learn to speak up and settle their differences, come to agreement and focus on a common goal, then work in cooperation with each other and build bonds based on the trust that accumulates as they pass milestone after milestone together. That's the most important lesson to learn from PW. If the kids learn this early enough, there'll be enough time to put together an impressive, professional presentation that deserves an 'A' from start to finish. That will be an 'A' to be proud of.
It's the end of the Drama season! Time to dress up, break out the sparkly juice, and laugh our brains out till late.

As riotous a time as we could have sans alcohol, we lived it up and bade farewell to the J2s in an evening of finger-foods, fun and games.

The incoming J1s who organised the party did well with their logistics and timekeeping precision. Their games were hilarious to play, except the one where I got my instructions confused and instantly self-immolated on my first utterance. Well-rigged, ppl!

Nice to see how this bunch of Drama kids took to improv. They haven't entirely got the theory right, but they were enthusiastically launching themselves into their assigned characters with minimal think time. Five different improv groups playing out five different scenarios, each group presenting a different playing style as best suits their collective personalities. Could be the basis of a set of rules for a new improv game! Hmm...

Kids finally got to see themselves on Drama Night. We sped through video highlights of both "Admiral" and "Walls", and it was funny to hear them groan at their own performance. As Wayne said later, "good actors don't like to watch themselves act," and the kids must be living up to that latest Waynism.

Gonna miss the zany but committed J2s, looking forward to working with the meticulous J1s. Not sure if there are any crazies among them, but I guess I'll find out soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Many thanks to everyone from x32 for the off-beat, unexpected and totally sweet thing y'all did for me today. It took a lot of effort and much thoughtfulness, and I really appreciate it very much. Even we staff need positive feedback at times -- yours came unsolicited, and right out of the blue. And, yes, in case you've been wondering, I've been off medication for almost a week already, and I hope that means the worst is over.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An end to two items on my weekly schedule. The first is the Drama competition which ended early this afternoon; the second, my 6-week self-leadership course which I have been faithfully attempting to follow as a personal commitment.

Our drama entry played exactly as I've seen it rehearsed many times over. It was as competent and as polished as it's ever going to get, though perhaps I'm seeing it through the eyes of someone who's seen the repeats once too many times.

I hope I'm wrong, 'cos the kids put in so much time, effort, and much of their lives into this production, but I'm going to be conservative about our chances at a top award this year. For me, the play looked so polished that it lost it's sense of 'reality' which was what was so strong about it to begin with. Well, better over-prepared and over-rehearsed than under, I suppose.

The other thing is the course I'm taking with a number of staff from across the departments. Apart from the key concepts of mentorship and rapport-building through both theory discussions and practical application, my best takeaway is in having made new friends from fellow staff I would generally not have had a need to talk to as part of my daily routine. Because everyone was keen to learn and participate, it was actually fun to play the games and open up about our current challenges and future goals to get affirmation and support from each other.

And now it almost feels like half the year is over already. Wow.