HUNT COLUMN: As the school world turns

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Ah, October: cool mornings, falling leaves, football, all things pumpkin. AND the recognition of two very important support services without whom a school day would not happen.

This week is National School Lunch Week, and next week is National School Bus Safety Week. Every day our nutrition staff prepares thousands of student breakfasts and lunches. Too many of these students may not receive regular or healthy meals at home, so keeping them well fed at school is paramount to their ability to concentrate and achieve. Our transportation department always receives stellar ratings, and they’ve done a great job keeping things moving even when short-staffed because of Covid. Good advice for teachers of any age is to make friends with support staff, which includes cafeteria workers, bus drivers, maintenance people and secretaries. Remember that the roles they play are essential to making your day go smoothly, so don’t let them feel invisible.

I have lots of happy memories related to support staff friends. On those occasions when I was in diet mode and not eating in the cafeteria, the manager would let me know in advance when they’d be serving vegetable soup and grilled cheese sandwiches because I had let her know how much I enjoyed that meal. I would leave my Lean Cuisine at home and visit the lunchroom at noon to pick up my “take out.”

On school trips, I liked to sit up front and chat with the bus driver. One particular driver became very interested in the literary and drama competitions we often attended and wanted me to request him for these outings. He would sit in the various auditoriums and observe everything. The kids loved it.

Dedicated maintenance staff always had my back. I remember literally standing in a chair in my classroom while Mr. Kenny chased a rogue mouse around the perimeter, finally catching it in his bare hands. Mr. Charlie and I had great conversations when he came by my room every day at 4:15 to sweep and empty the trash. This taught me to not be mad if my trash wasn’t emptied one day but to instead be worried about what may have befallen Mr. Charlie.

And I have some very simple words about the importance of secretaries: They run the school. They know everything.

I don’t want to make my advice here sound like a calculating, self-serving thing. It really is just a people thing. Kindness begets kindness and friendship. Don’t allow anyone who helps you do your job or live your life become background noise.

So as we prepare to enter a season of Thanksgiving, let me shout a big thank you to our support services. You make the school world turn.