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Bad School Management/Administration: An Example
Bad School Management/Administration: An Example

Bad School Management/Administration: An Example

As this post on Quora illustrates, sometimes good teachers are eliminated by bad managers/administrators. Such managers/administrators should be rooted out, disciplined, and, if necessary, fired — if, that is, we care about education, the youth, and their future.

“I was working at a major Australian university, lecturing in mathematics and statistics. The deputy head, who I’ll call Alan (not his real name), was pretty ambitious and keen that everyone should see him as the best teacher in the department (and pretty much the best at everything he did). Unfortunately, his ambition outstripped his abilities and so there were many occasions where he was shown to be not the best. Alan was also a bit of a bully and used his position to make people agree with him or do what he wanted.

“Being approximately the same age as Alan and having come to academia from a senior management position in a multi-national company, I wasn’t like the other sessional (casual) staff who were typically younger than me by 10 or more years and lacked any real world work experience. These other sessional staff were usually intimidated by the Alan’s position and did pretty much anything he asked, even if it was unethical and unprofessional. Alan was also responsible for teaching allocations, so most of the sessional staff were also eager to stay on his good side in order to get more paid work.

“As is typical at most universities these days, at the end of each semester, the students were surveyed and asked to rate their lecturers, tutors, the course and the facilities. I don’t put much stock in these surveys as they are often so vague or poorly designed that they lack any real validity, but the institutions love them. Alan was also in love with them as he had convinced the powers that be to let him be responsible for collating and analysing them for the whole university, which had brought him additional power. He loved being able to stand up in departmental meetings and go through the results, especially as, according to his own analysis, he often ranked highly in the department and the university.

“Anyhow, in my first semester teaching at this institution, the survey results put me in the top 5 for the department, but Alan discounted this as I ‘wasn’t doing a typical full time teaching load’. In the following semesters, I continued to rank in the top 5, but he always had some reason to discount my results, like my courses were only introductory undergrad units or only had less than 100 students. Things went on like this for a few years until the analysis and reporting of the surveys was moved into its own workgroup under the Vice-Chancellor’s department. Now the reports were issued directly to the academic along with a summary of the department and university as a whole and only the departmental heads got copies of everyone’s reports. In the first semester after this change, I received a VC’s award for excellence in teaching as a result of ranking in the top 5 for the whole university. Little did I know how that award was going to affect my career.

“Alan was fuming. He’d not only lost his power to present the results in a way that always made him look good, but now I’d received recognition from the VC and he hadn’t. As a result, he decided to alter my teaching allocation for the following semester to remove me from the unit that had led to my award and put himself in place. Unfortunately for the students, he understood very little about what psychology students needed to know for success in their degree programme and instead tried to teach them as if they were studying a mathematics degree.

“The result of this was, naturally, poor survey results and several complaints by students to their discipline head. This all resulted in a meeting with the discipline head, the head of our department, Alan and myself to ‘discuss’ the survey results and the complaints. It didn’t take long before Alan was blaming me for the poor outcomes, accusing me of only providing a ‘surface learning’ approach and failing to teach the students how to use their calculators in the pre-requisite unit. Naturally I pointed out that these psychology students didn’t need to know how to calculate the statistics by hand, they needed to know how to get them in a stats package and, more importantly, they needed to know how to interpret the statistics in context. The discipline head, of course, agreed with me, but couldn’t really say so without making Alan look bad. Instead, he tried to give Alan a way to “save face” by suggesting a few possible changes to be implemented for the next offering of that unit.

“Anyway, you can probably guess what happened after the meeting. Alan tried to make my life hell and refused to have me allocated to teach any courses except as a tutor. He began arguing at departmental meetings that we could reduce the number of hours taught by sessional staff by moving these courses to wholly online and using YouTube videos to teach the content. He suggested that the unit, for which I’d received the VC’s award, be the first trial unit and even put me on the project to review and select videos that could be used to replace the lecturer. Pedagogically this was a woeful and terrible idea, but as I was the only one seemingly arguing against it in public, Alan bullied everyone else until he got his way.

“I stuck it out at the university for that semester, but Alan’s constant interference in anything I was doing and his refusal to allocate me to any lecturing roles made it difficult to stay. After I left, it wasn’t long before karma took care of Alan. He got fired, not for poor teaching, but for unprofessional conduct and last I heard he was working in retail.

“And, I’m still teaching.”

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