When I’m not writing the stuff of nightmares, I have an actual proper day-job. My professional background is dominated by social care roles at different levels and two years ago I changed path slightly to become a training advisor – the not-so-fancy term for an NVQ assessor, in Health and Social Care. I get to educate people, developing them professionally, using my wealth of insight and experience in the care system, and I embed functional skills including English, Maths and ICT.
One of the challenges in my work, is that sometimes adult learners can be more evasive than children. A child will tell you the dog ate the homework, but at least the child has attended to say it to the teacher. I see learners on a roughly 3-4 week cycle, setting assignments for them to complete before the next visit. I turn up after a sometimes long drive, often finding that the learner I am scheduled to see, has conveniently forgotten, or is magically ill. Sometimes they show up and they just have no progress in evidence to represent 3 or 4 weeks of funding on a qualification they chose to take.
It can be quite trying at times, to say the least.
One of my colleagues took an extended period off work at the end of last year. I had just completed several learner portfolios and so was in a position to pick up the slack. I inherited her learners and by God, what an evasive bunch they were. Those I did manage to see have done nothing or seem to have vanished in the space of a month and many more did not attend the appointments I arranged with them.
In the build-up to Christmas I entered one particular establishment and caught the eye of a staff member as I waited in reception. She was a really pretty blonde, and hell, I have to admit it, I have a thing for… well, pretty blonde women, or brunettes or redheads. Happily settled down of course, but I’m not blind! In her blonde hair was a playful streak of pink. I like the whole Ramona Flowers/Anime, coloured hair thing too, so she stuck right out. But even more striking was the Christmas sweater she wore. Within the snowflakes was a sign that has promised me excitement and adventure since I was 8-years old and I saw what the car and costume were going to look like in Tim Burton’s then-anticipated Batman movie. Yes, it was the emblem.
Now I know that the last paragraph may have put off some readers, who might think me some kind of horrible cheating, wandering-eyed misogynist. I hope that’s not how I’ve represented myself and let me balance it by saying that my partner often remarks on how fit this bloke or that one is, and one of them is her friend’s husband who has such guns of steel I think I kind of fancy him a bit. We’re good-natured about it and we’re crazy about each other; we just understand that being together doesn’t suddenly make everyone else in the world hideous. No matter how good-looking any man or woman is in this world, though, my partner knows that she is the second love of my life. The first is Batman.
Through shit comics, some shit movies, that camp old series, that seed is still embedded deep in my chest – no matter what they publish or produce now, I have read some phenomenal Batman comics over the years and I loved the Christopher Nolan movies. Every time I feel I’m past the character, I somehow get sucked back into the vortex and end up being that 8-year old again.
So, back to this sweater…
As she passed, I remarked, “Cool sweater.”
“Huh?” she asked.
“Your sweater… I’m a big Batman fan. I really like your sweater.”
“It’s great, isn’t it?” she said. “Glad you like it. I love Batman.”
My kind of gal.
I returned to this establishment earlier this week to find that again one of the staff had ducked me. The Christmas season being over, the staff were all back in their usual attire and my fellow Batman fan appeared in the background, no longer donning the emblem, but in standard office dress that suggested she was not a carer, but an administrator.
I had to return to the same establishment today and wow, today’s learner actually turned up!
Now, in order to ensure that no more time is wasted, I spoke to an apprentice administrator, a nervous, really nervous young man who I suspect wasn’t sure what he was allowed to do and what he wasn’t. My aim for the day was to deal with one person. Who is going to be responsible for training here? What is this person’s email address? Ensure everyone knows our new communication protocol and that missing visits puts them at risk of being ejected from the course.
I got the name. I got the email address. I got more than that. As the nervous apprentice considered what he was allowed to do, the Batman fan entered. We properly introduced ourselves this time and she remembered that I had commented on the sweater – remembered that we have something in common.
We discussed comics and comic-book movies for a few minutes, and I even outed myself as a horror writer. She actually hi-fived me. Now that hasn’t happened in a fucking long time if you take tiny family members and their friends out of the equation.
Then down to business – apparently she worked as an administrator in my field in a previous job and she explained back to me the problems I was having, listened to my proposed plans to tackle it and took it upon herself to be the person at this establishment who will ensure the communication is much better and, more importantly, that the learners are where they should be when they should be there.
Today I just picked me up a sidekick.