Building Institutional Expertise
“Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first.”
Finding this quote made my day.
I’ve spent at least two hours a day working on “simple” code projects for my school. Of course, they’re not simple to me – they’re all pushing me past the boundary of what I know, or what I would feel comfortable to teach – but they’re not otherworldy. Using the Google Apps Script system to build an automated workflow for some recurring collaborative documents. Automated mailings from Form data. A system to bind together our attendance data with our transportation rosters ins a way that the people standing by the door of the bus can account for each kids who walks on, and see at a glance who’s missing because of absence/sports/clubs/etc. Tracking student representation in our publications, so the same 12 kids don’t appear on 80% of yearbook pages and news posts.
So one of those projects happened, got noticed, and turned into another. And then another. And then two more. On some level, it’s an incredibly satisfying, challenging and personally rewarding new aspect to this amorphous blob I call “work.” On the other, it’s not “curricular integration.” It’s not even “IT support,” which is normally the biggest time-draw outside of my assigned responsibilities. I was frustrated because as much as I might enjoy it, I didn’t see these programing tasks directly contributing to the vision and values of our school in a way I could articulate. Importantly, I was spending X hours researching, practicing, hacking and futzing with code, when a better programmer could actually design and implement a solution, probably in X/5 hours. (Thanks again to Emmanuel from the Bootstrap Project for reframing my thinking about those terms this summer).
My angst came from “why am *I* doing this, when it’s not my job and not really my skillset? Does being the best coder at a school mean I should actually *do* the coding for the school?” The 37 Signals quote above was a nice reminder that this can all be groundwork – hacking out a working model means that when we’re ready to finalize this, we’ll be far more capable hire a coder on contract for a more refined version of these tools or any others.