Sunday, October 28, 2007

Per Diem Skills

As Napoleon Dynamite said, you need "skills". Like Napoleon, I don't have nunchuck skills or bowhunting skills or computer hacking skills. What I do have.....are "per diem skills".

These proved really helpful at high school parent teacher conferences. At the evening conferences we had eight teachers to see. It was a mob scene of nervous, high strung parents, trying to figure out how to get their 3 minutes of face time with their child's teachers. The teachers are spread throughout the building. They are guarded by volunteer students who keep a sign-in sheet and regulate the flow of meetings. The "rules", such as they are, are not posted anywhere. You want to get it done effectively and efficiently and get out of there.

When Felicia and I got to the school and saw the situation, I said "This is exactly like doing Queens per diem appearances. What we need to do is know the rules for each part, see where the Judges are located within the building, try to figure out the verbosity tendencies of each Judge (do they conference everything or take a lot of submissions?). Most important, what happens if you miss 'first call'?"

Her look said "You really are a sick person", but of course she actually said "So what should we do?". We had a list of eight teachers on five different floors. We agreed we wanted to see the teachers together and not split up for the actual meetings.

When I have multiple Queens per diem appearances, I make a game plan. Everyone who does per diem work does this. You try to prioritize, figure out where to go first, how much time you might need, and you also need flexibility for the unexpected.

My parent teacher game plan went like this....

"First of all, we will see the gym teacher last, because its isolated on the first floor while the others are on 3, 4, 5 & 6. Also, if we miss that one it's not so bad. I would check in on 5 & 6, she would check in on 3 & 4. We would then use cell phones to see where we were on each teachers list. I then thought about it and decided not to sign in until we checked with each other, because if we were the same distance away on all the lists, we'd end up missing some and going to the bottom of those lists, a very bad result because it was getting busier as the night went on. We also agreed that from what we had heard about the social studies teacher, he would talk a lot and his conferences would run long. We agreed to factor this into our thinking. Before we split up I said what I like to say to my per diem attorneys as we set out. I said....."Hey, let's be careful out there."

The plan worked pretty well. Not perfect....we got caught with Spanish and Bio getting called at the same time. It caused us to go to the bottom of the list for the Bio teacher, but second call on Bio didn't take too long. We nailed Social Studies, arriving just as our name was called. (In the per diem world we call this "hitting your marks"). Fairly late in the evening, I realized we were allowed to use the elevator, so when we were three away on English, I took the elevator downstairs and checked in on gym. Next semester we will hit our marks better, but overall it the appearances were covered well.

In the per diem world we usually don't talk about the results of the appearances, unless we missed one. This was different of course, it was like covering one of my own cases. When I got home, of course Rebecca wanted to know how it went. So I said "Well, we had a good game plan, and got them all covered pretty well....we did have to go back and get Bio on the rebound...." She was rolling her eyes, so I told her the truth, she is doing very well and has some energetic and interesting teachers.

And I have some useful "skills".

1 comment:

  1. On the other side of the coin is the teacher who is hoping that "some" parents don't map out a strategy. What can one say positively in three minutes about that thorn in the side kid who has made the teacher's life miserable since the start of school. We root for the parent of that kid to be as distractible and unfocused as the kid. Acorn not falling far from the tree!