Friday, November 12, 2010

Remembering the "invisible" members of school communities

At a Provo School Board meeting earlier this week there was a recognition award presented to Carmen Duarte, who is a child nutrition cook at Farrer Elementary School.  It was a pretty simple presentation--a district official read a short nomination submitted by someone at the school, the Board shook Carmen's hand, and she was given some sort of small gift bag.  And, I would imagine that this sort of thing happens in school board meetings all over the country.  But, what happened next was really quite profound for me.  The president of the Board, almost non-chalantly, asked Carmen if she would like to say anything (I think expecting her to decline).  Carmen hesitated initially and then, in broken English and fighting back tears, said something like "Thank you.  I love working with the children.  I love my job."  Then she sat down.

It was simple, but I was touched and left having been reminded of some important things

1.  Schools are made up of more than teachers and students.  And, some of the things that go on behind the scenes--in the library, on the playground, in the cafeteria--are just as important as what happens between teachers and students in a classroom.

2.  Recognizing and celebrating good work is a powerful thing for communities.  Something important happened when Carmen was recognized.  I haven't quite figured out what it was, but something occurred when she was publicly recognized and then had a chance to vocalize how she felt about her work in her school.  I think it was a way of our all being reminded of why we care about students and do the things we do.  It might have been as important as any business item that was addressed later on in the "important" part of the meeting.  I wish we could have had 20 minutes to hear some of Carmen's stories about working in her school and to hear from some of the students and parents who have benefitted from her work.  

3.  People who care about students can make a difference in schools, regardless of their job.  I doubt that the job description for custodians, cooks, secretaries, etc. include much language about teaching or learning.  But, I'd bet the farm that students at Farrer learn from Carmen and have a different experience because of their interactions with her.  

I was glad I was there on Tuesday.

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