Sometimes there seems no way out of an overload of work. But it is often a matter of perspective.
To take the point in the subject line above, one view of the school is that the way it presently is is the way it has to be, and the job of the administrator is to cope with the situation as best s/he can.
The other approach is to think, “no it doesn’t have to be like this – I can work to change the approach and so get rid of this problem.”
As I talk to colleagues in schools and as I mark the activities undertaken by administrators on our on-line programmes, I am struck by the fact that quite often the emphasis is on the former approach. How it is, is how it has to be.
I think the trick is to choose one – and only one – aspect of your work in the school office that you really don’t like and which you think uses up ludicrous amounts of your time, and then see if it can be changed.
Let me give just two examples.
First, take for example the issue of parents queuing up at the school office window after they have dropped their children off or while waiting to pick them up.
One might think that these parents might get a bit fed up with the queuing but in some reports I have seen this is not the case. They actually enjoy it, because it gives them a chance to chat with other parents and pass a pleasant few minutes.
So the length of the queue is not a deterrent. And indeed many of them turn up just to hand over a form, make a payment in an envelope, or ask for information that is available on the website.
The solution is to put a box for forms and envelopes by the office window, on a shelf outside, and then each time one is handed over, it can be simply dropped into the box marked “Please put your forms and payment envelopes here”. So the matter is dealt with and the point made – “you could have done this yourself”.
As for those asking for information that is on the website, a big sign can be put up outlining some of the most common issues (dates of half term, sports day etc) and saying they are dealt with on the website. If this doesn’t work a page can be printed out with the answer to these most common questions and put by the side of the window.
Some parents even then have been known to ask for it to be printed out for them – but the answer is, sorry, I can’t leave the queue, but it is all on our website – the address is on the piece of paper.
Now I know the impetus is always to help people – but there has to be a limit. It doesn’t make sense to get to a position where through helping people in these sorts of ways when they could help themselves, the whole office support service becomes totally overloaded. (Of course if you have spare time, helping people is nice – it helps pass the time of time. Just enjoy your situation – not many school offices have that amount of time to spare.)
In another example a school was overloaded by sales calls. One solution that was hit on was to set up a phone line with an answering machine on inviting companies to leave their message there. Some, of course, then phoned the main line asking to speak to a particular person, but the answer then was always the same – phone the other number.
“There’s just an answering machine message” would come the plaintive reply from the salesman.
“Yes,” said the administrator “just leave your message.”
“But can’t you help me?” asked the salesman. “I want to tell you about…”
“No, school policy is you must phone that number and leave a message. We’ll get back to you.”
Of course, again if you are not overloaded with salesmen on the phone, there’s no problem, but these simple examples do show the point. If you face an overload problem, and can just think, “it doesn’t have to be like this,” you can most often find a solution.
If you have a particular problem of this type which is overloading your office and you want to send it to me, I’ll post it on the newsgroup, and we’ll see if anyone else has faced the issue and come up with an answer.
Just email Tony@schools.co.uk and write Annoyance in the subject line.