Evaluation

How do you know if what you’re doing is worthwhile? For me it varies. Sometimes people take the trouble to tell me that they’ve enjoyed / appreciated / been inspired by what I’ve done, and that’s terrific; it gives me a real boost. Sometimes organisations get an independent evaluation, which again can be worthwhile. And sometimes people just get cross. I’ve had all of these this week.

Not on Monday, though – on Monday I spent a long time sorting out my mail and doing prep for various things that were to happen later in the week. The Son came home for a while, which was lovely; and I had a long phone call with The Daughter.

On Tuesday I wrote the adjudication for the play I saw the week before. I spend a long time on these adjudications – far longer than I’m paid for – and think carefully about what I say, trying to balance encouragement with constructive criticism. This week, I had a complaint about the adjudication – an evaluation of my evaluation, in effect. I’m not supposed to enter into any correspondence with people about the adjudications, but sometimes it’s really difficult not to; the lady was incensed. I had made one genuine mistake, for which I apologised, but the rest of my criticisms were, I still think, fair. I don’t know what’s going to happen about this yet.

I meant to have a session at the hospital on Tuesday, but when I arrived there I found that my purse was missing from my handbag; I couldn’t pay for the car park, and even if I had been able to, I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on work with the patients. I drove straight home; fortunately, the purse was on the floor in my office where I had dropped it. Doh. Instead, I did some stuff for TADS – thinking about props for our next production, updating information for the treasurer – and finalised a recommended booklist for Poetry on Loan, and answered a lot of emails, and did some work on the hospital book – lots of bitty things.

And I read the evaluation report for the writers in prisons organisation that employs me to work in the prison. This was dreadful. It wasn’t an evaluation at all, more of a description; it didn’t ask (or answer) the right questions; it didn’t give a true picture of what we do. I kept a diary for the evaluation organisation for a whole year, but the work of the existing writers – all of us – was covered in one page of the report. Some of the recommendations were ok, to be fair; but the grammar and punctuation were appalling. And this came from a university! I would have been ashamed to send it out.

Next day, at the writers in prison conference, it was clear that everyone felt the same about this report. Now, these people have been paid a lot of money for this, and it does make you wonder. How many evaluations are produced that don’t address the right questions, and are just downright not fit for purpose? How much money is spent on them? I’m all in favour of evaluation – I was once called “the evaluation queen of theWest Midlands” – but it has to be done properly and appropriately. Ok, rant over.

The conference was good, as always – great people doing fantastic work with prisons all over the country.

In the evening I had a TADS meeting and a production meeting, so it was quite a long day. On Thursday I did the minutes for the two meetings, and had two sessions at the hospital. I met a great lady there, who has accepted fate and enjoys a peaceful and very quiet life; she says there is no point travelling, because she can’t imagine anywhere better than the village where she lives. I came away with a feeling of calm; and she was very appreciative of what I’d done. In the evening we saw War Horse, which was a good story but a bit syrupy.

On Friday I did my accounts and lots of prep, and worked with the people in the GP surgery. I had two women, who had hardly written anything when I first met them, using T. S. Eliot as inspiration. Wow! And two new ladies, too. Rehearsal in the evening. I do have a problem, though; although I’ll do everything I can to help make it all work, I hate the play we’re doing. It’s totally negative, with not a single sympathetic character, and I just don’t believe that this is how the world is. And to say that although no-one you know is like that, “it’s the way the world is going” – i.e. other people are like that – seems terribly arrogant to me. Ah well.

On Saturday I had three young people’s writing groups inHereford- two hours each one, with 15 minutes between them. Much to my amazement, it all went really well; the kids had a great time, and showed their own evaluation by saying how much they were looking forward to the next one. Hooray!

And yesterday we went for a long walk by theSevern- longer than we had intended, because the marked footpath suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere, and we had to retrace our steps. Bad farmer! Perhaps I should have left an evaluation for him / her – I would have had no problem expressing my feelings about this neglect of duty.

And finally, this morning, my car has had to go back to the garage again because of a brake problem; really not a good idea to drive it until it’s fixed.

How would I evaluate this week, then? Overall, 7 out of 10. No stars.

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