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Friday, November 19, 2010

Behind The Curtains Of The Big Show

When we reflect on our own school experiences the memories are usually framed by the relationship we had with a teacher. That is, the dynamic of interaction is focused on the association between the teacher and learner, since our school day was oriented toward teachers as opposed to the many different staff members with roles and responsibilities outside of the classroom. Nonetheless, like a stage performance, there are various skilled people who contribute to a stage performance but are virtually unseen during the play. Applause is directed at the quality of the performers visible to the audience rather than the many people who constructed the sets, choreographed dance programs, provided make-up, made costumes, prepared scripts, directed lighting, managed the sound system....Without these workers, the curtain doesn’t rise for the big show.
Education is a different drama, though it is a public performance on an accessible stage replete with many people who generously contribute to the overall production presented by the actors and actresses. Unfortunately, the efforts of the support staff is either overlooked or unseen by casual visitors to any school. Nonetheless, not much can be done without their experience and expertise.
To prepare the content for this Blog posting I asked the office staff to record the number of phone calls and emails they received during the course of business today. I also asked the school nurse to document the number of calls and visits received in the health office today. The food service staff computed the number of meals served for breakfast and lunch today. The custodial staff calculated the number of square feet they clean and maintain on a daily basis.
Imagine if you can, what the tallies revealed. I suspect you'd have a difficult time guessing the figures. I know the secretaries had never given it more than a passing thought as they perform their responsibilities because the number they arrived at was twice as many phone calls and emails as they predicted before the count began.
I'll use the data from today as a typical day and multiply these daily numbers by the 180 day school calendar to determine the projected total numbers.
In a normal school year:
The secretaries respond to 17,280 phone calls and emails (an average of 96 each day - not to mention the number of children and staff that stop by personally to request services).
The custodial staff cleans 10,980,000 square feet of space (cleaning hardwood, tile, and carpeted floor areas as well as bathrooms, cafeteria... - in other words, using an average size house, the custodians clean an average amount of square feet equivalent to nearly 36 houses each and every day!!)
The food service staff prepares approximately 46,800 meals during the length of the school year. That's a lot of food!
The nurse averages 31 phone calls per day and receives 46 children or staff visits for aid and assistance each day. That translates into 5,580 phone calls for the school year and an annual total of 8,280 people requesting band-aids, temperature checks, calls home, doctor's notes...
That's a lot of work! Without the concerted effort and commitment of our support staff we could not hope to generate high achievement levels in learning. They are a vital element of our school operation. Make sure that you remind them of that the next time you visit our school - or any school.

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