Saturday, August 27, 2005

You know it's going to be an interesting Saturday when. . .

. . .you get students on a scavenger hunt assignment.

The first week of classes is almost over; we have Saturday classes. The librarians here take turns working the weekends, so this Saturday morning it's my watch. As I am settling down on the desk, a young girl came asking for books on team management. I ask her if she wants something on maybe corporate teams, teamwork, or managing a sports team. She says it is for a management class, but she leaves it fairly open. I search the catalog, find her a couple of good titles on building teams in the workplace and management, and off she goes. I don't think much more on it. A short while later, a small group of students come in asking for letterhead from the dean. Yes, you heard right. I do tell them that since this Saturday, most of the deans' offices are likely closed. They did not specify if they wanted a particular dean; they just needed a dean. One of the ladies in the group then asks, 'well, don't you have something the dean wrote to you." I smiled and told her that no, deans usually did not write letters to me, on letterhead or otherwise. One of her classmates then says, "oh, we just have to know where a dean is located, get something off the website." So, I look around, I find the page to one of the university colleges with the name of the dean and the location, print it out. They are happy, and off they go.

By now, I am getting suspicious. So, before they leave, I ask them if they are working on an assignment. Sure enough, they have a scavenger hunt. What they are really doing is one of those "team building" exercises that professors often like to have on a first day of class. I am sure readers know what I mean. It is some kind of activity to get members of a class to know each other better. In this case, since it is a management class, it is a team exercise. The item about a dean is "stationery from the Dean's office." In our case, it could have been any of the academic deans, but I get the impression the professor teaching this class did not quite realize most academic offices on campus are closed today. Then again, professors are often notorious for assigning things without checking availability. I did ask them to let me make a copy of the assignment, which they gladly allowed. Some of the items on this scavenger hunt include:

  • a book with the word "team" in the title. (If that other girl had actually read the directions on the sheet, it would have been easier for both of us).
  • a blade of grass from the university football field (we are an urban campus, and we do not have a football team, let alone a field. I wonder what they might substitute for this).
  • a cup of sand
  • a pine cone (of course, this and the sand, you could have a picture I suppose, be creative)
  • newspaper article about a team
  • a definition of group "cohesion" that you share with the class (you see, there is some work involved too).
By the way, the assignment was adapted from something published in the Journal of Management Education. The idea is to build a team experience and reflect on it. As a teacher, I can certainly appreciate the intentions, but there are better ways than watching your students running around like mice in a maze for items we do not even have. One the one hand, it could foster some creativity, but on the other hand, I can see some frustration and something that could have been better planned. At least, some of the items could have been made more relevant to the campus. I mean, asking for the ear of a prickly pear cactus (even in Texas) gets difficult in the middle of a city. Ironically, the note on the assignment sheet says "Note: Items may be substituted as appropriate for your locale." I would add, "Note: teachers should actually read this and maybe try to find some items on their own or adjust accordingly before passing this out to students." Then again, it makes for an interesting Saturday.


miriam said...

Teachers can assign stupid stuff, and this one has.

In our local high school, a teacher assigned each student one name to look up and write about. Some, but not all, of the names were fictitious. The students and librarian were on a wild goose chase without a goose at the end of it.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

I think I may have heard of similar things, but I think the name assignment is a new one. Where they looking for the meaning of the name or something else? Sounds like the type of thing would make a librarian grab the phone and ask the teacher, "what were you thinking?" Oh well.