With back to school season in full swing and new pencils, haircuts, and school uniforms in evidence around the United States, we find ourselves thinking about the unsung heroes of back to school time of year – the bus drivers, school secretaries, custodians, and cafeteria staff. In truth, they are too often the unsung heroes of every day life in schools and the real foundation of school climate for students.
Unsung Heroes of Back to School
Bus drivers are often the first staff member to greet a student, and that interaction can set the tone for the whole day. The smiles, the warmth, the friendliness can make all the difference for a young person in need to support or just a kind face. Of course, bus drivers also can be crucial upstanders for children bullied in their presence. That’s why the National Association for Pupil Transportation worked with the U.S. Department of Education to develop training units on intervening in and preventing bullying.
School secretaries are frequently the gatekeepers for the rest of the school. They truly see and hear it all from the tears of the first day of school (for students and parents!) to the crises of staff, students, and families alike throughout the year. The difference between a school secretary who snarls at the tardy student asking, “Why are you late?” and the secretary who says, “I’m glad you made it,” is immeasurable.
Custodians can make all the difference in both physical and emotional safety for children. They know the isolated corridors and restrooms where bullying takes place and can be a critical adult support for a young person in need. Having a custodian on the school climate committee and engaged in all school wide prevention and intervention efforts is often revealing and invaluable.
What a job it is to be restaurant manager for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of students each day as our cafeteria staff are! Responsible for nutrition and preparation and service and equipment maintenance and, and, and…. In a very limited time window, cafeteria staff must be master jugglers to make it all work for the children they serve.
Thank you for your patience, your kindness, your care, and your concern for our students’ well-being, and for all your dedication as school starts and throughout the school year.