Yesterday I had the great pleasure of returning to work as a Supply Secretary at an Edmonton Public High School. It was so good to be back!
My role as supply was to serve the students and the Administration team in the Front Office. This is a busy High School with a phone that never stops ringing and a line up out the door for a better part of the day. (so much so that people walk on eggshells for fear of a “jinx” on the “quiet” phones when they are not ringing!)
The requests I fielded were varied in both complexity and demand:
· A student who had a serious reaction to the sight of blood in a Macbeth video
· Introducing a Constable to an irate parent
· Printing replacement identification for students who have ‘lost’ their permanent ID cards
· Helping a student find patience to wait for an Administrator
Over the course of this phenomenal day, I had a bit of a light-bulb moment that I am compelled to share: SERVICE! I realized that public education is about customer service to a very large degree. Everyone in the building has a role to perform and that every role is in ultimate service to society’s most precious customer: our students. No one in that building is paid nearly enough to compensate for what issues must be addressed! So, for me, with the students as a central focus, we become like the “back-of-house” associates in the hotel industry. It is the students who are in the forefront, and everyone is focused on them, even if their role is indirect (like custodial or supply staff).
Perhaps where we go wrong is when Public Education teams lose their line of sight to the customer and what they expect and deserve.
I was recently advised on what I thought was a relatively simple question about alternative programming availability. I was told that it would take 5-10 business days to answer. I was stunned! Even after all of my work leading up to the trustee elections, I had no idea that this was the turn-around time on something as integral to the well-being of a student as a simple question about programming availability! I think that we may have completely lost sight of the customer – the student; when it takes that kind of time frame to answer a question.
Good service has expectations associated with it. I expect that I am part of the solution. That with my voice, I can inform you, and you can inform others about the ways in which education is failing our students. I think it is reasonable to expect simple information to be delivered efficiently. I expect students to be the central focus of public education, and tax-payer dollars.
I also think it is reasonable to expect that with my voice, I can inform you, and you can inform others the ways in which education is exceeding expectations. I expect that tomorrow I will say thank you to the teacher, custodian, volunteer, or peer who goes above and beyond the call of duty in service to education and students they serve.
Transparent communication and gratitude are what I expect, and I hope you expect that too.
Tomorrow I will serve students I may never meet. And I will not be alone in that service. There are countless people working countless hours, who deserve recognition they neither seek nor will receive. But perhaps, with my voice, and the network of all of your voices, we can begin to shine the light upon those who offer service that exceeds expectations. I cannot tell you how rewarding it is to be able to use my voice, even if it is not quite in the way I had anticipated, with such conviction. And tomorrow, I will type. I will format, and I will save changes made to documents that I trust will serve those students, their families, and their teachers well. Like so many people do their whole careers, I will focus on great customer service and go home satisfied in knowing that I was part of that service team---even on supply.
So for those who choose to serve the students in Edmonton Public on a day-in, day-out basis – you matter. The work you do matters. The end result matters – in a big way. Serve from your heart and keep your eye on the end result. Very little matters more.