Notes from the Bald Man – September 2018

September 5th, 2018

Two Changes, One Apology, and a Couple Other Thoughts to Spare

Dear Community Builders,

This month, I want to speak to two changes occurring within LCMC that are very different in nature from what I usually write about.

To begin:

Hours of operation and how we (the full-time staff) do business.

For the past year, we have used volunteers to help with the front desk, and their help with answering phones, data entry, and other office tasks has been crucial. But a question has come up for me regarding whether we need someone greeting up front. A number of times, I have seen tutors come in or a potential student walk through the door in need of classes, and in most cases, all of them have needed to come back because either staff needed more time to prepare what the tutors needed or because students needed to come back after scheduling an assessment.

For me, the solution is for us to move toward a schedule in which the office is open to the public for 3-hour segments twice a week—kind of like office hours for a college professor.

Our plan is to do Tuesday 10-1 and Thursday 1-4 to start. The rest of the time, staff will be available by appointment only. Of course, tutors who have sessions with students can come into the office, and teachers who are prepping for classes will come in and do their business. If tutors need to check out materials, they can just come in.

The real difference is that we are trying to keep ourselves as a staff focused on our daily tasks because we want to be as effective and as efficient as possible with our students and other stakeholders.

I know for myself, at least, that if I have set work blocks that I know will not be interrupted, I am more efficient at my job. By setting office hours, tutors and potential students know they will be served when they come in during those times, and staff know that for those six hours, their Job #1 is to provide the best client service possible.

Admittedly, I have been reticent to put this plan into effect because LCMC is nothing if not an open and welcoming organization, and I didn’t want to do anything to put that into doubt. Still, we need to make a change for LCMC to work better with the staff we have. Many of us are going out into the community to get our name out to people who need our services. Our push for this year is to emphasize the fact that we are an educational entity for the whole county, which means we need to get out there, which also means, that the office becomes our place to prepare for that work.

Change Number Two (and an apology):

This now brings me to the second change, which is more internal in nature. It’s also a bit of an apology.

As I recently admitted to our Board of Directors, I came to LCMC with a certain bias in favor of tutoring as an educational methodology. It’s not that I think classroom teaching is not extremely important, rather, I just always design programming with the hardest-to-reach and the hardest-to-teach in mind. When I got to LCMC, I saw that we offered both tutoring and classroom teaching, and I was over the moon. Having both makes us very special. When I arrived, I saw the Classroom Program as being well-funded (read, funded enough) and very solidly run, and though the tutoring program also seemed well-run, I was concerned that funding for it was not as solid. I put my attention to working with Alexandra to better position the program for more funding.

As many of you know, we did alright this year with regards to funding. Foundations have been generous as have many of you. We even got some direct funding from the County Council and the County Executive (a first-time for us at LCMC) to support tutoring.

But to say all of this does not excuse the fact that I missed something very specific to this county. Though there are a lot of students in the region who fit that hardest-to-reach category I mentioned above (read, disconnected youth, homeless, low-confidence learners, GED students coming out of ESL classes, and the list goes on), there are a lot of students who want and need a good ESL classroom program. Not only that, they need the classroom program to be all it can be. That does not happen without granting it the proper attention.

So I have to be a better spokesperson for that amazing program and its staff. Next month, we are going to highlight the program here and we are going to show how Ahu, Rishan, Nina, and Denise are working so hard to create something truly special.

Down the line a bit, we will be thinking about how augment its funding. I think one way to think of that is to look for ways to merge tutoring and classroom programs for very specific purposes. One idea could be to have to tutoring sessions right after classes that have a very specific bent (help with citizenship, household budgeting, or something more vocational). The classroom program and tutoring program would still be very separate and distinct, I want to be clear here. There may be small pilots in which tutors play a role.

I am open to ideas here, so please send them along. What I can say without hesitation is that we have worked to grow the Tutoring Program this past year, and with Alexandra, and now Ruth running it, I think we will keep growing it. But this year, we need to think more about how we grow the Classroom Program’s footprint in the community. It is such a resource, and I want to make sure that is known by anyone who will listen.

So with that, stay tuned for next month when we celebrate the Classroom Program!

For more of Gabe’s “Notes from the Bald Man” column, check our ED Corner here.