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The Notebook

The NotebookOh, I am not talking about the movie.  I love a good tearjerker, but I actually have not seen it.  I am talking about ordinary spiral notebooks and how they have helped me with administrative tasks.

In the first year of my doctoral program, I was invited to join the writing program as one of three graduate assistants.  On the first day of the semester, we met with the director and the associate director.  They gave us each a medium-sized spiral notebook.  They told us to keep these on our desks and to write down every interaction we had with students or faculty.  Since we held fewer than ten office hours per week, the goal was to lessen the feeling of giving people the runaround.  If someone had been in before, she or he could just point to the desk of the person with whom he or she talked, and we could look in the notebook for what that administrator had told the person to do or what the administrator had found out during or after that meeting.

It helped a lot.  If a person came in with a syllabus to have it reviewed for transfer credit, we did not have to take down much information since it would already be in someone’s notebook.  If a teaching assistant had a problem with a student and returned with an update, we did not have to spend much time reviewing what had happened.  When I finished the job, I took the notebook with me and still have it in my office now as a reminder of where I learned to do what is now my full-time job.

And at this job, I keep another notebook.  It’s the one in the photograph attached to this entry.  I am the only one who sees its contents, but I use it as the first place for phone messages and individual consultations.  I write down the initial note and black it out with a marker when I have taken care of that particular issue or transferred the information to a more permanent place.  That way, I can see what remains to do and what I have done.  The idea for this entry came as I turned to the last page of this notebook.  Over the last five years, I have filled it.  Glancing through it, I see lots of names and phone numbers.  I see lots of questions I needed to ask people.  It’s pretty incomprehensible, which is fine since it’s just for me this time, but it has served me well over the years.

I was in graduate school well before many digital tools existed, so this same thing might be able to be done electronically in some way.  Perhaps as a private wiki to which only administrators have access?  Or another way?  Let us know how your administrative teams handle such tasks in the comments.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user nhighberg]

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