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Working with the Support Staff at your International School: Be Nice to the Lunch Lady

August 6, 2014


I am sure all of you have heard this old adage and think that it is great advice to take to be sure you get the best service from the person who is responsible for feeding you! But it goes way beyond just being nice so that you get good service.

10414487_10153186830635021_5754806015597075628_nThe reason we should all show kindness to our support staff is not to get things done in a timely manner because it will make our work much easier, but we should be nice to the support staff because they are just as important to the running of a school as we teachers are.

I have taught internationally since 1995 and I have worked in seven different countries in five different continents. I have worked with numerous nationalities and I have always gone out of my way to get to know the support staff in each and every one of my postings. When working in international schools, usually the support staff are host country nationals, who make very low wages, some might not even speak English very well, but they take pride in their work and most of the time, strive to do the best job they can to help support the running of the school.

Every time I get to know one of these individuals I learn so much about their background and home life.  Their stories always fascinate me as many of them have hidden talents or have intriguing tales to tell! But the pure joy I get from these interactions is from the smiles I receive from these individuals. There is nothing better than walking down the hallway each day and being greeted by one of these fantastic human beings!

Most recently, while I was working at The American Cooperative School in Tunis, I was greeted by one of the custodians who did not speak much English, but every morning he would greet me with “Hello! Good morning, Bonjour, How are you today?” Accompanied with a great big smile!  What a way to start off my day! Of course I reciprocated with a similar greeting and a smile.

10474728_10153231008190021_4274539594740662001_nAnother staff member that I got to know very well was the young Tunisian man in charge of the copy room. Despite his delightful smile and charming personality, he had a hidden talent as a cartoon artist! Over the course of the year he showed me his work that had been published in magazines and in newspapers. He had no professional training, just the passion to draw. It was his hobby, which turned into a way to earn extra money. When I left the school this past June, he gave me a personalized cartoon sketch that he made just for me! I was so honored!

And then there were the cafeteria workers, the actual ’lunch ladies’. These lovely Tunisian women who worked so diligently to get our meals prepared and served in a timely manner were always willing to greet us with a smile. “Bonjour, ça va? Bon appétit!”.  Just these simple interactions between colleagues made the work place so much more pleasant.

And last, but not least, and the main reason that inspired me to write this article, was the interaction I had with the Filipina IT ladies at the school. They all worked so hard in trying to accommodate all of the teachers and students with proper technology in order to facilitate great learning experiences in the classroom. Once again, these ladies always had a smile and a friendly hello to pass along whenever I encountered them.

10247240_10153231669165021_3198708658470551939_nBut it was not until the last week of school that one of these lovely ladies came up to me and told me how much she appreciated my friendly smile and my eagerness in which I took the time to chat with them about their life. She shared with me, that often times teachers take them for granted and do not take the time to get to know the support staff. She said that she often felt that some of the teachers look down upon them and never would take the time to have a personal conversation with them.

This comment struck a chord and pulled at my heartstrings, as I do realize that there are some teachers who view support staff as lesser beings and often do not give them the full respect they deserve. The old proverb of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” rings true here!  We are all equal, no matter our religion, nationality or role in the work place. We all deserve to be treated with the utmost respect! We are a team and each team member has an important role.

So the next time you encounter one of your support staff members, remember that they are just as important to the function of the school as teachers are and that they have wonderful stories to share and would greatly appreciate a short little chat with you. And do this for the sake of showing kindness to others and not just to be able to get your photocopying done in a timely manner!

What goes around comes around – and with kindness it really does. Research shows that being kind to others increases our own levels of happiness as well as theirs. What’s more it has a knock-on effect – kindness is contagious, so it makes our communities nicer places to be.”

http://www.actionforhappiness.org/take-action/do-kind-things-for-others

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UntitledThis article was written by International School Community member Joni Kerr. Thanks Joni for such an important reminder and inspiring article!

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