Of Fried Eggs and Teflon

It is surprising how as children grow into teenagers, they become covered in Teflon. Able to deflect housework with a single scowl, parental wisdom slides off them like eggs in a frypan. Even when the chips are down, they continue to deflect. It’s not their fault. It is their mother’s … their teacher’s … their sister’s …. Even if you weren’t there, somehow you are responsible. And, of course, as a parent, you are. Those Teflon shields mean that is hard for them to own up to mistakes, hard for them to assess their own behaviour. That is our job as parents to help them do this.

Part of maturing is about owning your mistakes, reflecting on your behaviours and being courageous enough to change things for the better. As adults, although many of us still have pretty strong deflector shields it is a sign of maturity to reflect on the things that we do. Mmm, should I have shouted that hard at the child who somehow got scone dough on the roof…on the tap, on the fridge, on the cat … Apparently no body did it (darn those Teflon children).

In the ITP sector we have a new quality assurance model that requires us to lower our deflector shields and turn them around to be mirrors. Examine what we do, and why we do it. Look for ways of doing something better if it results in better educational outcomes for our students. One of the interesting things about this “new” process is the self-assessment is conducted in a workplace environment, where it is very easy to drop back into Teflon mode. These are the issues that we have identified, but they are the responsibility of “management” to do something about it. And, yes, it is ultimately the responsibility of management to do something about it. Unfortunately, we will be judged on our ability to self-assess our activities – our capability or maturity to own our own issues doesn’t just sit with management. It is the responsibility of every member of staff. In fact, according to much of the literature on evaluative methods of quality assurance, making everything the “fault” of management is a sure sign of capability that needs to be developed.

When you are conducting evaluations to self-assess your activities, you will very definitely find issues that need the attention of management. You will very definitely find issues that require your attention, that are definitely about what you need to contribute to, analyse, reflect on. You will definitely find things that you think need to be done, but maybe can’t be done, because of rules, regulations, policies or resources. But the important thing is that you must own some part of it. Those Teflon shields need to come down to be truly and honestly reflective and able to self-assess. It is the job of management to help us all do this.

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