I always started my day at Orchard Elementary checking my mailbox in the school office for any memos, flyers, notes, you-name-it. I ended my day the same way.
Looking back now, I remember that Margaret, our school secretary, was already at her desk greeting students, parents and us by the time I got there. I remember, now that I think of it, that Margaret was still there when I passed by my mailbox on my way out the door. And I prided myself that I got to school pretty early and usually left hours after the kids went home. But Margaret did, too.
One morning, I saw flowers on her desk. A large bouquet with a card still attached. I smiled. “Is it your birthday, Margaret?” I asked.
She smiled back, looking a little embarrassed. “Well, no,” she said. “It’s the strangest thing. I was heading home yesterday, and when I got to the parking lot, I noticed one of our kindergarteners standing on the sidewalk. Well, you know it gets dark so early now, and I wondered why she was standing there all alone.”
Margaret told me how the little girl started crying when Margaret asked her and explained that her mom never came to get her. “So we went back in the school and I called her mom, and she thought Dad was going to pick her up, and she was so mad at him! But she came right away to get her. I just sat with her in the office and we colored pictures for about a half hour until her mom got here.”
“I’d just hate to be that Dad for the next 24 hours! But it all turned out OK. Anyway, they sent me flowers just to say thank you. They didn’t have to do that. I mean, it was nothing. It’s all just part of the job.”
Of course, it’s not just nothing. Even if it is all part of the job. Our education support professionals love the students they serve every bit as much as a teacher does. Margaret felt a little embarrassed because she didn’t think she had done anything special to make sure a little girl got home safely. But everything you do for a child is special, and support staff do so much that goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
It’s time to notice. It’s time to show appreciation. Parents, students, teachers: it’s time to give a big bouquet of thank you’s to the Education Support Professionals who do so much for our students. Thank the custodian and the lunch lady and the teacher assistant and the school secretary.
Thank the tech who keeps the computer lab humming. Thank the maintenance folks who keep the roof from leaking and make sure the grass is cut. Thank the person who unlocks the doors in the morning and locks them up at night.
Flowers are always nice. But a nice “thank you” is long overdue.