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December 2002 Issue

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Management Strategies & Tips

By Jan Norton

Email: norton@mwsc.edu

Up & Down the Ladder

Unless the learning center is a one-person shop, we supervise tutors or professional colleagues and sometimes run the risk of forgetting who we are serving and why.  If you have ‘worked your way up’ to management, consider working your way back down, at least for a little while now and then.  Here are a few opportunities to consider.

WORK AT THE FRONT DESK.  Find out what the day-to-day life is like for the people who serve as the receptionist for your center, the point of first contact.  What kinds of questions are asked?  What’s the mood of clients who come in or call?  How difficult is the record-keeping system?  You may be surprised to find that you’ve forgotten how to apply the rules you have established, or impressed to see just how critically influential your first-contact people are to the smooth operation of your center.  If nothing else, you will probably please and impress the people whose work you are experiencing: being a follower in this way makes you a better leader.

TUTOR STUDENTS.  In the same spirit as the above suggestion, get face to face with the students and remember what it is like to be a tutor or an SI leader.  Getting in touch with these roots is very rewarding; I find that connecting with students’ frustrations and uncertainties is oddly energizing, since it reminds me why the work both in and out of the trench is so important.  And here again, when the boss is willing to do a job, that job seems to gain status and those employees are honored.

TAKE A CLASS OR A TEST.  Putting your learning on the line can significantly knock you off any ladders or pedestals you have managed to climb, but it clearly lets you feel the climb that others are facing.  Yes, you work full time – so do the students who must get that paper done before Monday.  Yes, you’re nervous about getting a good grade – so are the students in your classes, the tutors you have hired, the faculty who are facing their PhD. comprehensives.  Whether you take a standard exam (e.g., ACT, SAT, CBASE, PRAXIS, GRE) or an entire academic course for credit and a grade, you will give yourself the chance to put yourself on the line in a way that will vividly remind you why the students who seek your services and the people who work for you deserve your best efforts. 

I’m certainly not saying that supervisory work is not a challenge, nor am I advocating that you abandon your managerial responsibilities: you are greatly needed in that capacity.  But your work in that capacity can be enhanced by non-supervisory experiences in addition to professional conferences, good journal articles, and peer mentors.  Working your way down may be a humbling experience, but it is a valuable one nevertheless.  Humility teaches some amazing lessons.   


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