// when a loop doesn't exist //
Although being able to supervise the class was the highest point of my placement thus far, I still felt uneasy with the lack of feedback on my work. I was looking forward to the evaluation meeting and getting to see the volunteers again. At the end of the lesson plan document, I gave two reflection questions to ask the kids at the end of class: which part of the material/activity did they enjoy most, and what else did they want to learn for Cultural Studies. However, evaluation day fell on Easter break, and my supervisor told me there would be no evaluation that Friday.
On Monday, I touched base with the program coordinator who liaised with the volunteers most frequently. She gave me a time when the evaluation was set to happen-- an hour after training for that week's subject: English. Yet when I logged into the meeting no one was there. I waited for 5, 10, 15 minutes. I thought I'd miscalculated the time difference. I messaged the PC and she said it was finished and the evaluation ended half an hour ago. I felt a mingle of disappointment, confusion, and frustration. How was it possible for a Cultural Studies evaluation to happen without me there? How could I build a better second lesson without feedback on the first?
The program coordinator then told me education coordinators (like myself) never attend evaluations. It was mostly for the volunteers to evaluate the kids' performance, rather than the lesson plan. I asked if any feedback about the class was given and she said no. I asked on the volunteer group chat on Whatsapp on two separate occasions about how the volunteers' classes went, if they had feedback, just in case. I asked what the answer to the two reflection questions was from the kids, hoping for some material.
It became clear to me that I was witnessing the Top-Down approach in practice. That the coordinators relied on my supervisor to tell us what to do, the volunteers relied on coordinators to pass down the lesson plans, and the kids absorbed what was given. There was no structure for feedback loops and my attempt most likely came across as voluntary, additional, unnecessary work. (This is very understandable as they're volunteering in their own time!). Without 'upward' or cyclical feedback loops though, how could improvements happen?
The same was true for horizontal engagement. Before relaying my lesson plan materials, I attempted an ice breaker for the volunteers and realized it was their first time saying hello, and introducing themselves to each other. Even though they were part of the same cohort.
These communication issues stretched vast and deep. Every time I asked someone something, they would refer me to another person, and this person would refer me to someone else, and this last person would say they had no idea what I was on about. There were meetings and presentations being scheduled 15 minutes prior, deadlines to new workloads set the day before. I was promised a chance to teach the materials when I first came on board the internship, but that didn't end up happening. And only through much effort did I manage to supervise one class unfolding. Without 'pestering' so many people, this wouldn't have happened either and I would've been left with nothing.
Though of course, there's a part of me that's noting how to do better for lesson two:
- trust the volunteers after relaying the second lesson plan, and facilitate more engagement amongst them if possible
- be clear to the program coordinator weeks in advance that I would like to teach in a group, not supervise
- make sure to sit in that evaluation at any cost!!
- my friend also suggested a very short multiple-choice evaluation that can be done by volunteers during the Google Meet to be used for documentation purposes as they'll all be there and it'll lessen the pressure to 'speak' or 'chat' on WhatsApp. I've decided MentiMeter (from attending a work-related workshop this week) could work wonders!!
I still have to be honest and say: I feel like I'm swimming upstream. The gap between theory in practice is immense, and I don't think one person can overhaul can establish a new framework, especially when coming in as a 'guest' and 'foreigner.' And while it's good to ask questions, I wonder if much of my 'pestering' can be avoided with better communication and accessible, well organised information for all parties.
I suppose that's what my coordinator guidebook will be for, right?
I wonder, however, if a guide for the next me will be useful if none of these larger issues have been tackled.