Notes from the Bald Man: February 2019

In light Martin Luther King, Jr.’s recent birthday, I have been thinking a lot about a quote of his that I first heard in college regarding the purpose of education: “Education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society,” he wrote. Dr. King was himself a student when he wrote this in 1947. The goal of education, he says, cannot just be about academic or intellectual gains; it must be about ethics—about teaching character and empathy and community; about building a culture that brings its people into that community. 

In 2018, LCMC spent a lot of time developing processes by which we would better be able to track the progress of our students. These processes involved transitioning off of a curriculum that we felt could not meet the needs of our students, and from there, we developed a process that would have students come back and test every 50 hours of instruction. Finally, we took that process and worked to automate some of it by taking the data that you give us monthly in your reports, so that we could then push that information back to you in a digestible way that will allow you to see your student’s progress and make adjustments as necessary.  

In 2019, the hope is to refine and broaden those processes, and to start creating ways, when possible, for your students to be able to practice their skills online by using devices that they might already have, like smartphones or tablets. This won’t be for everyone, but it will help some of our learners. 

Many of you have voiced support for the more systematic direction we are taking, but I have heard from a few tutors that they are concerned by this new “more standardized” approach. These comments come in good faith; these tutors are looking out for their students and are making the case that asking learners to come in every 50 hours is overly burdensome, that academic standards might be too hard for their learners, that there is more to our program than test scores and metrics.  

In essence, they are making the same argument that Dr. King made. 

I hear those words, and I get them. And I agree; efficiency in quest of expediency is a negative. At LCMC, however, we are looking to be efficient in the quest of service.  

 Our goal through these changes is to help learners get to where they need to be as quickly as they can get there. That is because part of our mission at LCMC is to provide our students with a ramp to gain the self-sufficiency, skills, and confidence to be part of their communities in a fully engaged sense, just as Dr. King urges us to. To do this, to be experts at mitigating the many challenges that our students face day in and day out, requires us to be better, which means we need to find ways to track how we are doing, which is why you are being asked to do different kinds of reports, to do them monthly, and to work with us to keep providing the data that the staff needs to help you be the best educator possible.   

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As an organization, all of this means that we also need to develop our educators. That leads me to one of our biggest achievements to date: on January 19th at the Gaithersburg Library, we organized a training conference called the Winter Institute. Some of you came out, and overall, it was a great success, led by our own Ahu, and supported by all of the LCMC staff. Please see the program here

Over the day-long event, offering more than 8 hours of workshops to 52 participants, one of the big takeaways from the day was that packaged in the right way, educators like you want training. You want an efficient way to learn what you need to learn to be better for your student—again, not because it is easy or convenient for you, but rather, because you want to provide your learners with the best.   

For those of you who were not able to attend, we will be putting some of those trainings up online in the coming months, and with Alexandra, we will be creating more workshops/webinars and putting them online, as well.  

As Dr. King urged, LCMC’s goal is not just to develop our students academically, but to develop our community as fully engaged members. We are small, so to try to meet the great need that our region faces, means we need to be efficient as possible—not because it is easy, but rather, because, as Dr. King argues, the right thing to do.