Spreadsheets don’t lie

Teacher’s reflection

Staring them in their faces is that dreaded spreadsheet. It speaks to the depths of their heart. All the assessments are recorded in that spreadsheet. You might act tough, you might act as if you don’t care. But when you stare at the document that holds a folio of your performance, then you will know where you are heading. The good news is, you will not be able to blame anybody except yourself. You get what you work for in life! And, oh yeah, another good news is, there is always another opportunity for you to redeem yourself. The last day of the week is always slated for reflections and catch up work. Those who toiled during the week, will do their reflection and have the rest of the time to chill and do whatever they like and those who did not do so well will be busy trying to concentrate in that noisy environment to complete their work and hand in for a mark. Nothing like the first race, when the instructions are dished out and time is taken to explain over and over again the concept. When I put that spreadsheet on and all eyes turn on to the electronic board, everybody is watching out for a highlight-free cell. When once you see red, it means danger, you have to do something. That spreadsheet has a way of calming people down, because it only shows what you put in. You see why we love them spreadsheets that tracks and monitors students’ progress?

Two weeks to the end of the term is always a very interesting one. This is the time I always sit down with my students to talk to them one to one and show them that spreadsheet. You cannot at this stage talk tough or prove that you are a tough dude because the spreadsheet will either make you or maim you. Like we do know in life, input is always equal to output.

 Meeting with the students

One by one they came to meet with me, that dreaded or much sought after interview. I sat like a colonel on my chair and the computer opened before them. I would click on their name and their data will pop up. Every single data was captured –  attendance, punctuality, coursework data, grades, and what you will be fighting for in exams.

“Mr. Teach, please can I redo my coursework and hand it in?”

“I am afraid not.”

“Why not?”

“You know the deadline has elapsed.”

Simba stared at the spreadsheet for a loooong time. He realized that in exams he had only forty marks to gun for. The pass mark for the subject was 60% and for the classwork and other paraphernalia, he was able to scrounge a mere 14%. The sad news was that he was a person with such a capability, but he chose not to listen to all the alarm bells that went off earlier.

For Simba’s cohort who were in the Oil and Gas Stream (O&GS), they received extra allowance in addition to what the institute offered them already. What that meant was, if he flunked, he would be chucked out of the programme. He would lose that extra money he was receiving from the oil and gas firm. He would be thrown out of the building where he received his tuition. The free sumptuous lunch he used to receive would be cut off. The pride of the O&GS would be cut off. All the privileges and preferences he used to receive would be shut down. His pass to the building would be taken. He would not be able to drive his car to the parking facility anymore. He would have to leave it at the gate and jump on the bus that conveyed the other students to the lecture rooms. If he missed the bus, he would have to walk under the intense humidity and unfriendly weather. Whereas as an O&GS student, he would flash his pass at the gate and the gates would swing open for him. Magical, eh!!

He would have to look for another option for himself and that would depend on availability and majority of the time, the next most sought after programmes would have been full already. He would have lost out on the chance to have the best training in the industry. He would have lost out on the opportunity to travel the world and earn fantastic wages. He would have lost out on the opportunity to have the stamp of oil and gas firm on his CV.

As he stared in front of the spreadsheet, I could imagine his new life unfold before him. Then I saw his eyes swirl. I knew he was going through a flashback of all the email reminders, all the verbal reminders, all the calls for him to come and finish his work and his lack of co-operation. That tunnel of flashback could be a torture, could be long and could be windy. You would wish it had a reverse gear.

“Mr. Teach please help me,” he finally muscled the courage to say.

“Tell me, how?”

“By giving me another opportunity to do my course work and hand it in.”

“But the deadline has elapsed. All the data have been submitted to the exams and records.”

“That means I will fail.”

“That’s what the spreadsheet shows.”

“And I will be asked to leave the programme.”

“It seems like it, except you have 60% pass mark in the core subjects of math, English, science and engineering.”

“What must I do?”

“Pass the exams.”

“But even if I score 40 out of 40 in the exams it is still insufficient to grant me a pass.”

“Remember it is most likely that you may not score 40 out of 40 in the main exams” I reminded him.

“Exactly. See my point?”

“You can re-sit.”

“But I can only re-sit if I fail three subjects. From the look of things I will not do well in other subjects.”

“Well everything you see now is as a result of the choice you made earlier.”

“I know. But everybody deserves a second chance in life.”

“Correct. You have had it over and over, again and again and you chose to ignore those chances.”

The upcoming school holiday was going to be a blast, the oil and gas students would have to work on their project before shooting off to France on an educational visit and project.

Going abroad was always a delight and an experience to look forward to as a student because you got to see new places and got fed for free. It was always an opportunity to get to receive generous spending money and hang out with your mates and make new friends. You would be with your mates creating fantastic memories.

“Next please, I called out.”

Smokey Jnr. stood up, face down and walked away and then he swung around as if he had forgotten something and extended his hands to me.

“Spreadsheets don’t lie, you did all what you could to get me to do my work, but I ignored them.”

“I am glad you remember all these.”

Manny hurried along, took his seat opposite me with such an anticipation and excitement written all over him. He looked at the spreadsheet. His face beamed with smiles as he looked at the outcome of his hard work. Paris was written in the horizon for him and he was on his way to working at one of the topmost international oil and gas companies in the world.

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