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organizing the daily round

How do informal educators actually organize their work? Support page for chapter 8 of Informal Education
support
modes of working
basic considerations
thinking about intensity
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illustration: organizing the daily round - informal educationHow do informal educators actually go about managing their day to day work? Based on on research into how workers think about their work we can explore:

modes of working - we have identified six different modes of working: being about, being there, working with, doing projects, doing 'admin' and research, and reflecting on practice.

basic considerations - some guidelines for practice.

thinking about intensity - recognizing that some work will be intensive (e.g. casework), some will be about making contacts (e.g. 'being around'). Other work may involve quite detailed planning (e.g. projects).

Check out the Informal Education forum and discussion page.

Some questions to consider

At the end of chapter eight in Informal Education we give you some questions to think about - and we want to look briefly at each.

1. Try breaking down your work under the six modes outlined here. Then work out (roughly) how much time spent on each. Do any significant patterns emerge? Are there points for action?

In the book we break down the work of a student support worker in a further education college. As we comment there, the way the work splits will vary with the job. One of the key considerations here is whether all the elements are properly represented - are you falling down on one or more?

A second concern is whether you have the mix right for your job. This is something that may be usefully discussed with colleagues and managers.

Third, does the mix highlight any areas for training? Are there things that you need to develop - for example, around doing projects or administration?

2. Are you around in places where the people with whom you wish to work can be found? Consider your work in relation to the patterns of life in your neighbourhood.

One of the things that comes strongly out of this chapter is the need for us as workers to be where the people we wish to work with can be found. The classic issue in this respect over recent years has been the way that youth workers have been tied into buildings and activities that no longer attract young people. In part this has arisen because many youth services and youth workers have not been prepared to work in new ways. There have been some shifts in Britain and Ireland in recent years, with the development of more detached and project work, and with closer attention being given to schooling and further education. There has also been some resistance to working at the times when young people are contactable.

In community work, there has been a general movement away from generic neighbourhood work into activities that are more closely defined and targeted e.g. around housing management. In addition, there are often strong pressures to cut corners on 'being around' in the work - with the pressures of various projects and administration.

To answer this question it may be necessary to do some research - to walk around the area.

3. Have you made space so that you can respond to situations?

It is easy to fall into the trap of filling up our worksheets or diaries with activities. Yet the work needs space - we have to be able to respond to situations as they occur. The classic response is to start juggling meetings, or to appear late for things. It is rare to find informal educators who get this right.

The problem here is that when we look at our workplans there is often a worry that we are not justifying our existence - we can feel we need to demonstrate to others that we are doing our job. On top of this there is the impact of cutbacks and funders' constant concern for 'value for money'. There are various pressures from managers for us to take on work.

Part of what we are suggesting here is that we need to take on a sound vocabulary for the work - that we describe our different modes of working in ways that allow us to value and organize the work so that others may appreciate what we do.

At a practical level we need to attend to time management. This involves getting clear on what is priority work - and what can be picked up and put down. It also entails putting in a 'mess-up' factor. We know things will go wrong, or that something will take a lot more time than we thought (things rarely seem to take shorter times!), so we need to leave space to pick this work up.

4. Think back over the last month or so. Have you paid enough attention to administration, and to exploring your practice?

This is something that you may be able to make a 'snap' judgement on. We can soon work out whether we are up to date on our paperwork, whether forms and reports have been completed on time etc. It may be that we do not want to spend more time on administration as it cuts into practice time - and this is an important consideration. That is to say, we may choose to let the paperwork slide a little in the interests of face-to-face work. The calculation here is significant. We have to ask whether the lack of attention to paperwork helps or hinders the quality of the work we are able to undertake. It may be that a little more attention to administration, for example in setting up project sessions, may make for much better work. It may be better to cut down the quantity of face-to-face contact and increase its quality.

Making judgements of this sort entails us exploring our work - hence the second question. Here, again, it may be possible to make a fairly quick decision. We may have various feelings about our work.

Activity

Try planning the next four weeks according to the modes we have suggested here.

Do they fit; are there others that you want to add?

© Tony Jeffs and Mark K. Smith

First published August 7, 1997.