Friday, May 15, 2009

Release the experts!


Spent yesterday at Berkshire High
working with 9th graders on personal narrative – the day before I videoed the same exercise for an online course at Chancellor University in downtown Cleveland. So Karmic-ly, I guess this is a week for telling and gathering stories.

While I was working at Berkshire (the kids were great – I forgot my camera so no pics, rats) there was another consultant at the school working with teachers on reading across the curriculum. I was heartened to see this. My host teacher – sort of makes me sound like a tick – in her first year of teaching was fresh out of the teacher oven glowing with ideas and enthusiasm but, she was already involved in professional development - kudos to the administrators at Berkshire. (Kudos by the way, is one of the words hilariously defined and whimsically illustrated in my recently published book of SAT level vocabulary word poems – click on the cover over there at the right.) So to torture the host parasite metaphor a bit more, Berkshire High was lousy with consultants.

Consultant – kind of a catch all phrase – that nebulous occupation question line answer that never really satisfies the questioner.

What do you do?
I’m a consultant.

See? Kind of flat, you don’t know if the person answering is really saying, “I am not sure myself what I do” or “it’s none of your business” or “I’m a spy for the Dayton, Ohio chamber of commerce.” Back when I was working in the manufacturing world - consultant meant someone with a briefcase from out of town charging exorbitant amounts of money to tell you things you already know. Even so, when I get bumped into a first class seat on a plane ( an occurrence I consider hazardous duty pay for all the miles I’ve flown in the previous year) I am more likely to tell the guy or gal sitting next to me in their gray fitted business suit that I am an educational “consultant” than a poet. The wispy miasma of consultant-hood is much more easily digested by your typical front of the plane dweller than the perceived cold cock to the back of the ear of poet.

So what is a good consultant?

From my perspective a consultant is a specialist – someone who has studied and become really well versed in one aspect of your whole job so that by conferring with this person you can improve your overall success by implementing new ideas and strategies suggested by them into your routine.

How’s that? Do I sound consultant-ish?

Another way to think about it would be to utilize the ubiquitous sports analogy. Baseball teams employ all kinds of coaches: pitching, catching, fielding, batting, strength, nutritionists, sports psychologist and seemingly lately pharmacists. Now, you’re obviously not going to ask the nutritionist how to hit a high slider – it’s not their job to know this but you would ask them which is higher in potassium, a banana or an avocado. By taking advice from the right experts you improve you overall performance – taking advantage of the extra time these folks have put into that particular aspect of your total profession.

This weekend I am running a half marathon in memory of our granddaughter Stephanie, who we lost to complication of ITP last year at this time. I had no idea how to get ready for a race of this length. So, I went online and found a program to follow put together by an expert – an online consultant - that supposedly will see me crossing the finish line under my own power this Sunday. I’ll let ya know how it goes.

Oh yeah, an avocado has more than twice as much potassium than a banana.

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