Monday Period 2 – Stuck? Unsung Heroes.

Never overlook unsung heroes, wonderful people who support us in school and I think of every day as unsung heroes. That’s what they are, they are heroes.

As a science teacher I have always relied on science technicians to get my practicals ready but as a busy person at school even more reliant. I know this comes with the territory of being SLT but I still like to teach my classes as well as I can, which is sometimes a tall order. It can sometimes be easier just to say I won’t do a practical I won’t do a demonstration I’ll find a PowerPoint, a video or just tell a few stories, after all I’m the deputy they won’t mess around. Well I guess sometimes I do that, but we have such fantastic understanding lab technicians I’m so fortunate in that I’m able to rely on them getting me all the stuff ready and prepared in time. And not just me the other 17 science staff can rely on these special people.

I recently had a slight problem with my computer, despite my age I’m pretty good with computers, reasonably tech savvy but for some reason my hotmail and my school e-mail got tangled up on my phone after an upgrade, this meant a whole set of my latest school e-mails were being deleted. I did notice and stopped the processing on my phone however I did not know how I could get those recent e-mails back. If like me you’re not someone who deletes an e-mail when you deal with it, then your inbox is a storage system too. How fantastic that our IT technician could just sit down and in 20 minutes find my emails, save them, reset everything and hey presto.

The personal touch is vital in my school, part of our ethos, do the human stuff as well as possible. In fact we are one of the few schools that you can ring up and hear a voice answer and say “Good morning Trinity school” apologies if you prefer telephone bingo – press 1 to report an absence; press 2 if you need a moan; press 3 if we moaned and you wish to moan back; press 4 if you wish to hear a list of excuses to give us as to why your child hasn’t done his homework….Our secretaries are fantastic they do so many jobs even the tricky diplomatic ones with good cheer they tidy up my letters ( SPAG, language etc) and of course act as a line of defence. After we lost bsf and our potential managed service got blown up I seemed to get callers every single day, every single hour I was fortunate that a secretary could politely refuse in the nicest possible way. I didn’t even know so many ICT provders existed.

I sometimes make a mess in my lab and sometimes the lab I work in is left in a mess by others. Sometimes I have to call the caretakers to sort the blocked sink, the lack of gas, the power down. Ours are another part of a dedicated team. I look at the times when we have an event in the evening and guess who is still sitting in the staff room waiting to lock-up, patiently waiting for the last last parent to go home. Support staff who take great pride in the paintwork, the floor polish, and the smell of the school! Last year our site team cleared the two sites and a road of snow taking a whole Sunday afternoon, just so we could open on Monday, and fresh snow came Sunday night so……they came in at 5.00: we opened!

In my first school after a few days the deputy asked me if I had met the most important person in school to which I said “Yes the head had greeted me that very morning.” He said “Not the head, the caretaker, you’ve a lot to learn John.”

Our pupils are pretty good at keeping the place clean and tidy but our cleaners work their socks off in a 70’s building well past it’s sell by date. They keep the building as clean and sparkling as possible. They speak to me almost every day about the school, the children and will update me if there’s a problem in any classroom, toilet or shared space because they take pride in their work. Keeping on top of keeping a school clean and free of graffiti is important. They are proud of their contribution to our success. We recently had a visit from the Pearson Teacher Award people, they wanted to meet children, staff and….’others’, at our school they met the cleaners.

We have an office I consider to be our brain room hosting the examination officer the Sims magician and the senior IT technician or superman as we know him. They are cool and calm and can sort out any problem, why the UN hasn’t enrolled them I don’t know. Then there is the finance back-room staff. Mr Osborne you need these people, they run our school without fault, you know the sort of people we take for granted who ensure orders go through, pay cheques get to us, pensions sorted, budgets work……

I think it was in 1997 when Mr Blunkett as SoS for Ed, gave awards for schools if they got good results. We had a bonus several years running, I can’t remember what it was exactly but maybe about £15,000 and I remember us all thinking how wonderful on hearing the news. Then we had to look at how to divide it up. Which teachers? Just those who taught exam classes? Hang on some classes added more value, some felt the D to C classes deserved more, some felt A Level staff had a harder job, some felt the low ability success should be noted. Next question was ‘how much?’ Proportional to present salary so that the Head gets the biggest? Well you know my view ( Friday period 1) , the success is not simple to allocate to one person, the poor result doesn’t get blamed just on one person. But now another issue, what about the support staff? The chef, the kitchen staff, the secretaries, cleaners etc. Who holds the power? Try running a school without a caretaker, or an ICT tech or the Chef and the kitchen staff.

Surely there’s a test we can apply. Could the school run efficiently without X or Y? If the answer is no then they should have a bit of a reward and if the answer is yes then they probably shouldn’t even have a job. Make sure any school celebration involves support staff. Make sure they get recognised for their contribution. Schools are complex communities and in this rather tired phrase, we really are “all in it together”. Forgive me if I have overlooked you, there are many others in school, heroes and heroines.

As we come to the end of our school year and we thank head teachers, governors, those leaving or retiring, well this summer lets say a big big thank you to unsung servants: support staff who faithfully do their job and help us teachers to do our job just that bit more effectively. Real genuine heroes.

Some questions to think about

Q1 Do you think support staff are heroes or just doing their job?

Q2 How do we show appreciation for the support staff, other than trying to ensure fair pay?

Q3 How do we ensure the support staff are involved in celebrations of success?

For those in a Church school

Matthew 20:26

This, however, is not the way it shall be among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest;

Matthew 23:11

The greatest one among you must be your servant.

2 Corinthians 6:4

Instead, in everything we do we show that we are God’s servants by patiently enduring troubles, hardships, and difficulties.

7 thoughts on “Monday Period 2 – Stuck? Unsung Heroes.

  1. Yup. At my last school, my leaving email (long story involving funeral on last day of term) had the proportions right: three paragraphs to support staff and three lines to SLT. Might have been two lines.


  2. Pingback: Sunday period 3 – Plans off the shelf? No – planning is critical. | Mr John Dexter

  3. Well said, John. We have the best people supporting us. Love it when Liam waves his hands over a machine and it springs into life!


  4. Pingback: An explosion helps | Mr John Dexter blogs about school

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