Over the years working for the Lester B. Pearson School Board I have seen a lot of amazing things. I have been a witness to things people have done for each other, for the children, for staff and for the community. I have spent many years as a volunteer parent and then as an employee of the board. I have been proud to be a part of this school board, to have worked with such incredible volunteers and the staff who work within its many buildings.
I have worked at several different schools and had the opportunity to meet many people with compassionate hearts, men and women who truly care for the children, employees who go that extra mile to help a child, a family or a co-worker.
I have seen principals run out into school yards without coats and boots in snowstorms and minus-40 temperatures to rescue children who are upset or who are unable to cope or get through the next minute and decide to have a meltdown in the biggest blizzard of the winter.
I have seen daycare educators run to the aid of a fallen child who has hit her head on the gym floor or on playground grass. Educators who run to any scene, inside or out, to help a child in need. These educators react to these situations with calm, with respect for the child and with assurances to the person injured or in need that they will be fine. They are heroes to me, heroes who never ask for accolades but certainly deserve them. They are the back bone of the school system. Some start their day at 7:00am to greet the children as they arrive, with a smile on their face and a joke for some children who clearly are not happy to be at school. And they are there at 6:00pm wishing each of those children a good night!
These men and women who serve in our daycares work shifts, sometimes 3 shifts in one day, often have children of their own at home or in other daycares, but still they find the time to do something special for the children they care for. I have seen their generosity, their big hearts reaching out to children who are lonely or sad or going through a hard time at home. In some cases the daycare educators spend more time with the children in any given school than the teachers do. Those hours and days and years mean something to these women and men; their connections to the children are important. And although some appear to have lost the touch or have simply burnt out, the majority of educators and lunch supervisors do incredible things for the children in their care.
I have seen teachers go out of their way for children who are new to a school or who feel sad. I have seen aides run out to a local restaurant to buy a child a lunch because they forgot theirs on the bus. I have seen secretaries make phone calls when children are sick or forgot their homework. I have seen tears shed and hugs shared with children leaving a school and moving on. And I have seen those same tears and hugs shed when staff members leave a school. Each person who works in these schools represents its community and each person has helped build a kind of atmosphere and place that everyone can be proud of.
Secretaries, aides, office clerks, daycare educators, lunch supervisors – we are the support staff of the school. You can count on us and you can count us in to support our teachers in their fight to enrich the learning experience by making sure that the classes are kept at a teachable level, one that makes sense to teachers and to support staff, the aides who work alongside the teachers to enrich a child’s learning. We support the teachers getting decent raises. Only by raising salaries can we hope to entice young people to get into the field. We all respect our teachers and what they do for our children.
It is my hope that our teachers will support us too in our fight. We are often the forgotten souls of a school. It is my hope that we will all find a common ground that makes us proud to work in our schools and proud to work together. Seeing each others’ gifts makes for a complementary buffet of goodness from seven in the morning till six at night.
Battling the government is not something anyone wants to do. Nobody wants to go out on strike. That is clear. Although I myself have never been on strike, I do believe that we as employees must give a clear message as a group that we demand to be heard and understood.
I have seen so many humanitarian gestures over the past twenty-odd years working and volunteering at my school board. Let us not forget that we are all connected and that we all matter. That what we do in our schools is something to be proud of, shaping these little human beings, giving them the tools to make good choices, offering our help in all areas of development. Our jobs count. Can we count on you to support us? I hope so.
Photo by Martha Farley. All rights reserved.