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Workload Offload

| Learning | April 29, 2016

(I’m a teacher for the art & design department in my local town’s college, and have been for the last 20 years. My job is to coordinate lesson plans for two separate groups of 20 students. I tend to be firm with my methods of education, which I’m proud to say has rubbed off on one group who are flying ahead in their studies. The other group however, are completely behind, with only a few exceptional students. On Friday I set this group a homework task to be completed by the next week. It is now Monday.)

Me: “Okay, guys, I’d like to see how you did over the weekend with the homework I set. Please open your sketchbooks to the page where you began, and we’ll see how you did. We’ll go clockwise, as always.”

(There is an awkward silence in the group – certain students are sharing awkward glances to each other, whilst others are cracking smiles. This is generally a clear sign that they haven’t bothered to do the work. Out of 20 in the group, only three students, the ones who are pulling the weight of the studio, have actually done the work. For the record, the homework is three technical drawings.)

Me: “Okay, guys. This really is unacceptable! I am giving you plenty of time, more than is absolutely necessary to do your work in. You had a whole weekend to do three drawings! I want to know why this group has a problem with doing the work, because your opposing group is sailing ahead at this point. So, what’s wrong?!”

(More awkward silence. Some aren’t even paying attention and using their phones, or looking down at the floor.)

Me: “Right, we can either find out the problem now, or you can do double the homework today, plus the work I have scheduled for today. It’s up to you.”

Student #1: “We don’t have enough time to do the work.”

(Most students, apart from a few, seem to agree to this ridiculous reason to not doing the work.)

Me: “48 hours is MORE than enough time to do three technical drawings.”

Student #2: “We have jobs to attend to as well?”

Me: “Well, then, perhaps you need to ask your employer to reduce your work hours. You’re putting an enormous strain on yourself and your future prospects if you ignore your education at this stage.”

Student #1: “Well… I can’t draw, technically. I want to paint instead.”

Me: “May I ask then why you chose to join the Art & Design course, instead of Fine Art?”

(Silence from the whole room.)

Me: “I’m sick of these excuses. The workload isn’t tough at all. In the real world, if you want to get that far, you will be in an incredibly competitive industry where they ask for 10 times as much work in less than a day. You have it SO easy here. I will find a way to motivate you all eventually, if it is the last thing I do!”

(That was the last time someone wanted to complain about the workload in that group, but the situation only marginally improved. Two students turned themselves around and really got into the work. Student #1 eventually dropped out, and around 12 people failed the course. When the head of the arts department found out, she immediately demanded to know why I couldn’t engage them. I showed her the failed student’s books – almost completely empty.)

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