Some wise advice I learned from my Dad before going into education was “befriend the custodians and secretaries, they run the school.” The longer I’m in education the clearer that advice has become. They are the employees in the building that seem to have been there the longest and thus know the culture and history of the building. Not only that, but they are the completers. When you need things done around the building, they are the ones that get-it-done.
Herriman High School received a new school principal last year and he transitioned from Copper Hills High School in July. Early in the summer, I had a one-on-one meeting with him to discuss the school and answer any questions that he had. During that meeting, one of the custodians came into our room and upon seeing me she came up and gave me a big hug. I didn’t think much of it because she is one of my favorite people at HHS and continued my conversation with our principal. Later my principal explained to me that he knew he could trust me at that moment because if the custodial staff approved of me, then he could as well. It has become a competition between us who is the current favorite administrator of that custodian. Usually he wins, but don’t tell him I said that.
I was really hesitant to include this example. I don’t want it to seem like I am trying to #humblebrag about what I’m doing. Rather, I wanted to show the power of making connections. We would be lost as a school without our support staff. Oftentimes we acknowledge teachers as being under-appreciated and overworked (rightfully so), but what about our support staff? Where would we be without our secretaries, custodians, lunch ladies, hall monitors, teachers aides, and paraprofessionals? We’d be lost and without a safe place to teach our students. THANK YOU SUPPORT STAFF!
It isn’t easy meeting all the new faces when you start at a new school. Being a new employee is always intimidating. My first job at Weber High only lasted one year, so I became the new one again at Riverton High. After four years there, I moved to Herriman High and once again became the new one. Every time you’re the new employee you go through the process of getting the know the faculty and the staff. I have to remind myself that the work is worth it. I’m not outgoing by nature, I have to force it. I need to make myself uncomfortable and go out of my way to interact and talk with all the new staff members.
I firmly believe that relationships matter most when we are working with children. This is also true about the people we work with. Some of the worst jobs I’ve had were bearable because of the relationships I had with my co-workers. On my hardest days as an educator, it is my co-workers in the school that helped me through it.
I remember after an especially heart-wrenching situation at school last year I was surprised to see a teacher in the hallway because she was supposed to have the day off to attend a conference. When I asked her about it she said that she needed to be in the building with others that understood her heartache. Even her husband did not understand the depth of her grief. As educators, we take on a surrogate family when we work with students and that is something that is hard to understand until you are in the trenches. I think that is why this quote from Todd Whitaker makes so much sense.
Keep working. Keep striving. The fight is worth it. Build those relationships with students and with the staff in our buildings.