Lesson 8: A smooth flight-organization is key.

After failing at improving the work schedule, I decided to keep doing what I was doing and just comply with whatever I was told to do.

Even though a lot of us told the people at the top that professional level courses were the way to go, Mr. Gestures had a meeting with the government and had agreed to finance a junior-high level studies virtual course and forget about professional training. At least for the moment.
So all of the teachers focused on that.

I am trained as an architect so I was somewhat surprised when they gave me the subject of Geography. They said it was the subject that I was best suited for. Might I add that History and Geography were not my favorite subjects in school, but I had to do it, so I did. It came out pretty good, actually. It is still online, to this day- I think.

The interesting part of this anecdote is the moment when we had to record the lessons. Junior high had about a thousand virtual classes. There were around 14 teachers designing lessons. We all had to record them. There were 5 recording sets available.
The high-school recording sessions were a mess. We took around two or three months to record. Maybe a little more. No one knew where you had to record, which set was available or how much time you had to work in there.

Most of us thought that it would take almost the same time to record junior high, if not more. But, in this case, the person in charge was a female teacher by the name of Helen. Yes, Helen, that’s the name I will give her. She was and still is, quite responsible and organized.
I don’t know if gender has anything to do with it, but most of my male-bosses have usually been disorganized. The only female boss I had ever had was a principal and she was very organized as well. This time, Helen was partly in charge of junior-high and she came up with a simple schedule for the recording of the lessons. Some of the teachers helped her a little in elaborating it.

She gave each of the teachers a schedule in a printed sheet, which included the set number, the time and the names of each teacher. This way, I knew exactly at what time I had to record and in exactly which set. It was simple, but very efficient.
At the moment, I designed the Geography subject and I also had to check the work of three other teachers that were designing lessons about computer class (referred to as technology subjects)
There were 5 people in charge of each area: science, math, technology, social studies and spanish. They named us ‘supervisors’. I was one of them. And Helen was in charge of us. And Larry in charge of Helen.

Well, when we were figuring out how to record, Larry suggested that-while the recording sessions were taking place-ALL of the supervisors be here ALL day, to be available if any teacher needed help recording. He wanted us to arrive at 8 a.m., leave at 12 o’clock and come back at 4 p.m. and leave at 8 p.m. There were going to be teachers recording all day, so we needed someone available for technical help and to check that teachers got in on time and in the right set.
But this made no sense to us. Who would be available from 12 pm to 4pm? We even had a meeting to discuss this. A very long meeting- which was the protocol for the meetings: long hours, little or no decisions made. But Larry insisted that it was mandatory for ALL of us to be here.
So, when the meeting ended, the supervisors got together and -in 5 minutes- determined that we should take turns. There were five of us, so each had to come back in the afternoon only ONE day per week. In short, it was more organized and it made more sense. Most teachers had trouble recording on the first day. But after that, they got the hang of it and recorded practically by themselves. So, five people standing outside of the sets, all day, was not necessary. We simply matched our schedule with the teachers that would be recording, so each supervisor would be available for their teachers.

The result: junior-high got recorded in a record time of between three and four weeks. As expected, Larry wasn’t pleased and couldn’t understand why we disobeyed him. And, to this day, he refers to the incident as ‘the day when you ignored my decision’.

Something else that is important to mention is that the teachers recorded relaxed, with a better attitude, looked better in front of the camera and produced a quality product. How was this possible?

We managed to do it with this lesson: organization is very, very important. Analyze the resources that are available. Write down stuff, make diagramas, have productive meetings and determine more than one way to get something done. Then evaluate pros and cons to take the best decision.
In this case, Larry didn’t agree with the way we did the recordings. But he didn’t suggest any other way to do it better. His attitude is and always has been “my way or the highway.”

Oh, as an added bonus, here is what Helen got in exchange for her outstanding work: a swift kick in the groin, so to speak.
Let me explain.
Several days later, after junior high was finished, Mr.Gestures came over. He wasn’t here everyday. But he came over and asked about who was responsible for junior high, because they needed to attend a meeting at the government offices where the school’s permit was being processed.
Larry, obviously didn’t give any credit to Helen. He only stated that ‘we managed to get junior high recorded in record time’. Mr. Gestures didn’t ask any more questions.

I_dont
When they were leaving for the meeting, we found out that Helen was never really in charge of junior high. It was just for ‘production’ purposes. Because the ‘real’ principal, was Mathew. Apparently, Mr. Gestures didn’t want any women in his meetings because ‘he wouldn’t be able to speak with his fowl language’ i,e. swearing.
For your information, Mr. Gestures was not offensive, but he did swear. A LOT. He didn’t exactly use the vocabulary of a professional engineer, which is his professional training.

Anyway, Helen was very upset about this. However, she simply said quietly and modestly to herself ‘oh well, I know that I am in part responsible for this success, no matter what they say'”. And everybody else knew that without her guidance, we couldn’t have done it so effectively.

Next: Lesson 9-Headaches make people cry.

 

 

Lesson 2: Stealing

So now we know that Larry, -this guy who had no specialized training- was leading this new project.

What happened next?
When he started working over there, he made sure that everyone at school KNEW that he was working for a big-shot investor and that the project was big and would eventually, thrive. Remember he was still teaching, but working with Mr.Gestures in the afternoons. He has always been cocky and somewhat arrogant, and he doesn’t even try to hide it.
But he needed something else to make the project work: teachers.
Math teachers, history teachers, science teachers, english teachers and so on.

So, this guy started talking to some of us who were currently teaching. I was one of them. But the idea didn’t really convince me at that time. I was focused on my current job and on my newborn son. And besides, I didn’t really know him that well, so I couldn’t just quit my job without knowing what I was getting into.
There was another teacher, who I will call Matthew. He taught chemistry and math at school and he was a good friend of Larry. To me, he had a lot more common sense than Larry, was more focused and I believed he was a more honest person. Not to say that Larry wasn’t, but Matthew just seemed like a nicer guy. I also knew him a bit better than I knew Larry.

So, they started talking about the new project and, eventually Matthew quit the job at school and started working with Larry and Mr. Gestures.
Some days went by and I got a call from Larry, asking me to try out this new project. I declined, again.
A few weeks went by and I got another call. This time from Matthew. He told me they needed a math teacher. It wasn’t my specialty but I had taught the subject a couple of times and believed I could design the lessons. I would have to design and record the lessons since it was an on-line school.
Matthew said that I didn’t have to quit my current job. I could do it on my own time, as freelance work.
So, I accepted and eventually I started working with them on the new project. How did they convince me? Well, I figured it was an interesting idea, it was new, I believed that it was the future of teaching and I thought to myself ‘well, if Matthew is there and he is close to Larry, maybe he can knock some sense into him’. Therefore, I went for it.
The school year had also ended and I wasn’t getting paid a steady salary. I had to wait for two months until the new school year would begin. My child needed his formula and diapers, so I thought ‘what the heck’.

Now here is where the stealing part comes in.
Larry started calling ALL of the teachers at the school and offering them high salaries, great benefits, a cool working environment, constant raises and a load of other things so that they would go work for him. And he succeeded with a lot of teachers.
He got about 8 of us. We all believed in what he said. And we were in for the ride.
Many thought that it wasn’t right for him to bring teachers that he knew from the previous job and let the school have a hard time replacing us.

That, of course, was not something that Larry should have worried about, but the principle is the same. He took people that were already tested and trained, and brought them for his advantage. You could even say that this was clever. But, in time, he would pay for this feat in a similar way.
So, the lesson to be learned here is to be honest. In a way, he lied to us to get us where he wanted. He took advantage of the trust that most of us had for Matthew to convince us. Of course he didn’t put a gun to our heads to do as he pleased, but it’s always better to be honest, not lie and cheat to get what you want.
As a consequence, the owners of the other school, who are-to this day-some of the most influential people in the city-can’t even look at Larry. He sacrified an important contact for a project with someone who he barely knew and who didn’t have the same reputation as the other people.
So, always be honest. At your job, at home, wherever. Honesty truly is the best policy.

Next: Lesson 3- No man’s land.