3. The school nurse makes sure you and your students are as well as possible. She is often a registered nurse who chooses the school setting. She checks fevers, provides bandages, and gives you a place to lie down. If you don’t feel well, speak to her about it. In my first teaching post, I managed to catch a cold that became bronchitis. I coughed like mad and began hyperventilating to the point that I frightened myself. Peering over her reading glasses, she told me to go home. “You can come back tomorrow if you feel better!” I acquiesced since she had a mother’s ferocity about her. I went home, rested quietly, and returned the next day. I made sure to check in with her.
4. The building principals are the assistant and head bosses. Some have incredibly funny senses of humor while others are serious most of the time. I trust my principals to support me when needed. Because they are the boss, and I’m not, we enjoy a respectful, warm professional rapport. I go to them when I have questions or need help and/or advice. Sometimes they attend parent meetings, hold brown-bag luncheons for question/answer sessions with parents, maintain book counts and records, manage maintenance and repair requests, schedule the school activity calendar, and handle student discipline among a host of other responsibilities. They are visible in the hallways between classes and are often checking to see what we are doing in our rooms. They patrol lunchrooms and attend school events. Principals have serious responsibilities, but they make their staff welcome to visit in the office or on a stroll down a hallway. The best principals I have worked for maintain a strict open-door policy. If the door is open, and they’re not on the phone, then you are welcome to step in. They don’t forget that they were teachers who sometimes faced daunting circumstances. The best ones know each student’s name in the building. My current building principal loves the Hank the Cowdog series by John Erickson as much as I do. When I can, I let him know if I’m sharing Hank with my students so that he can laugh at Hank, his not-so-hapless sidekick Drover, and Hank’s constant enemy Pete the Barncat. Invite your building and/or assistant principal to stop by if you’re doing an educational game and let him or her participate. The kids love the interaction, and the principals love competing against the kids.
5. The cafeteria lady makes sure your students have lunch and sometimes a decent breakfast to start the day. I stoll down several times a week to get my daily glass of iced tea. I greet the cafeteria workers whenever I get something to eat or drink. I jokingly warm my afternoon classes that if I don’t have my midday/afternoon tea, they’re in trouble. The cafeteria staff provide salads, soups, snack food, baked potatoes, and plate lunches. At Thanksgiving, they serve turkey with dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, greenbeans, a roll, and cranberry sauce. I love to buy my lunch on that Thursday before Thanksgiving. Last fall, I hosted a Thanksgiving lunch for my students. I allowed them to RSVP and made a master list. I provided name plates for my kids, some paper turkey centerpieces, and a memory I hope they won’t forget. I walked about the tables I reserved for my students and greeted each one. I did manage to enjoy my turkey luncheon, too.
Visiting the cafeteria allows you to see the kids in a different light. They are relaxed and laughing with their friends. Some are creatures of habit and sit in the same place or general area. I will walk by some of my students’ tables in my quest for tea and give them an extra dose of attention which they love! I may say “Hello,” “Good afternoon,” or “Do you have my chips today? No? Well, pay up tomorrow or else!” with a gleam in my eye. The students love seeing their teachers outside of the classrooms. My afternoon students breathe with a sigh of relief when they see I’ve got my tea in hand.