Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mini Reprieve

Today: Secretary / Server

I didn't blog for a couple days because I just haven't had the time. I should really be getting to bed, so may be quick. My biggest *peeve* about the office (well, there are two), the first is a pretty big peeve. I'm sick and tired of instructors thinking that their only activity should be instructing and grading papers--maybe going to a conference or a meeting here or there. Otherwise all they do is complain. Correction: some of them complain. 85% of the people in our departments understand the "big picture," and know that there is more involved in working for higher education that just teaching. There is a huge burn-out rate in any teaching profession, I don't understand how some would think that higher ed would different. Regardless, there is a kind of resistance to anything clerical or administrative. I almost feel like a parent, disciplining small children. I'm the secretary, for crying out loud, and I have to follow-up with you for paperwork you've had for two months? As instructors, they get pissed when students don't follow directions or get things in by the deadline, but as instructors, they somehow think it doesn't apply to them. I wrote an email to an instructor at the beginning of last week, asking if I could be of any assistance processing the necessary paperwork that she's had in her possession since January 12th. She didn't even respond to my email. She said nothing to me regarding any of it. Yesterday morning they were on my desk. It's fucked up, really.
The other little *peeve* is listening to other people's stories. A lot of people who walk in the office seem to think that the secretaries need and want to hear their entire life story. Because we're just secretaries? I don't know. Sometimes we need specific information to better serve the student, but general information is usually sufficient. For example, I had a student come in yesterday:
Miss: Hello. May I help you?
Student: I have to turn in this paper to Mrs. K.
Miss: [standing, and reaching for a notebook] I'm going to have you sign it in. (We have students sign-in when they drop off paperwork to document the receipt of said document. We ran into an issue last semester when a student kept saying that she "gave her work to the secretaries" but it never reached the instructor.)
Student: [filling out the sign-in sheet] Yeah, I was sick and she said that I could email it to her.
Miss: [confused, silent]
Student: [still filling out the sign-in sheet] I couldn't even get out of bed. She said I could email it, but when I tried, I kept getting an error message. I don't know if she got it, but I thought I would just drop it off. I'm behind on other assignments now.
Miss: [taking the notebook, replacing on the shelf] I'll be sure she gets it. Feel better. [heads into the Copy Room to escape gabbing germy.]
She wasn't even as bad as some people I've experienced. I just have to say this: I generally don't care. When I was teaching, I also did not care about your story. We all have a fucking story. (I made myself think of George Carlin just then. I've been watching a lot of him lately, and I've decided that he and my mom had a love affair in the late 70s, and I am really George Carlin's love child.) We all have a fucking story. The fact that she told me her story did not make my job or the way in which I performed my job go any differently. I did not change a thing, knowing that she had been sick and was supposed to email it...or whatever. I still put the time/date stamp on the girl's assignment and put it in the appropriate instructor's mailbox. If she had simply told me she wanted to drop something off and sign the book, I still would have put the time and date stamp, etc., etc.
When I was teaching I had strict policies on deadlines, etc. I don't care if your dog ate it on the way to school while you were changing a flat tire. Telling me that did not help the assignment appear. Telling me that just made me annoyed that you spent the time thinking of that excuse because you just don't have your work. Here's how it will go:
Miss: Henry, do you have your assignment?
Student: No, Miss, I do not.
Miss: Turn it in tomorrow by noon for a 20% reduction.
Is that so hard?
Miss: Can I help you?
Student: I'd like to drop off this assignment for Mrs. K.
Miss: Sign it in please.
Student: [obliges]
I just think people think that everyone cares about them. I do not. I do not care why you can't get your shit together and remember your appointment. I do not care that that instructor won't let you add his/her class. I don't care that your dad is the security guard and you think you're hot shit. I just don't care. I have work to do! My job does revolve around the opening and closing of the door, but unfortunately, it is much more than that. When you go into the doctor's office for a check-up, and you're waiting in the reception area, do you strike up a conversation with the girl behind the counter? No! That's why some waiting areas have those little windows. They have work to do, and sitting around talking to people all day will NOT make the "To Do" list shorter. State your business, and take care of it--and only tell me the pertinent information.
Thank you.

Tomorrow: Secretary / Server


Trinka said...

I SO sympathize with this post. I'm a church secretary, and I DO care about the people who call and stop by ... it's just that so often they give me SO much more information than I need. Just ask me for the phone number folks. I'm happy to give it to you. You don't have to explain why you need it.

I'll also have people come in the door, come to my office window, and wait to talk to me. I break away from what I'm working on, and they'll say, "just wanted to say 'hi'." Then they'll go about their business. So ... they've broken my concentration, for a conversation with no substance. And when this happens a half dozen times/day ... it's a real distraction!

Thanks for the chance to vent. :)

Darby said...

I also get the Drive-by "Hi's". Totally annoying. Please, don't misunderstand. I DO care about the people who come through my office everyday, I just don't care about all that superfluous information. :)

Happy Reading!

Trinka said...

"drive-by 'hi'" ... LOVE it ... STEALING it. :)

Call Me Miss! said...

I think academics are compelled to tell everyone their life stories because they live in such a coddled and protected environment, safe in the cocoons of their jobs-for-life, that they need to remind themselves that, in fact, they even have a life.