A Shout-Out To The Unsung Heroes In Our Schools

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
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Every year on the first day of school, as I sigh in relief that I survived summer vacation and wave wildly at my kids, I say a silent prayer of thanks for the teachers who will receive them off the bus. I think about all of the work their teachers have done to prepare for the school year and about the nervous excitement they must feel as their new students file into the classroom.

And as I settle into my quiet workday in my home office, I also think about how their teachers deserve a medal for dealing with the chaos that 25 students bring to a classroom.

As much as teachers deserve praise and support, there are other heroes in our kids’ schools as well, people who do just as much work to prepare for our students, but who get very little praise or thanks. These workers typically show up at the same time and stay just as late, if not later, to ensure our kids have a safe, happy environment in which to learn. In my days as a school nurse, I witnessed firsthand how schools really do take a village of dedicated, highly trained employees to succeed.

And I want those workers to know that I see them, that I see their constant, unending support of my child’s education, and that their contributions to my kids’ school day do not go unnoticed, at least not by this mom.

School secretaries are the eyes and ears of our schools, and they don’t get nearly enough credit. If you think you can’t get your job done with a toddler around, school secretaries have it worse. Trust. Their workday is peppered with unexpected visits to the office, phone calls from angry parents, and acting as the gatekeeper to the principal’s office. And often, they are a school’s first line of defense because they know who’s allowed in the building and who isn’t. Say thank you to your school secretary the next time you see them. Better yet, bring them a bottle of wine. They’ve earned it.

Teacher’s aides are the lifeline for teachers in any classroom. Teacher’s aides get to know your kid on a personal level because they are the ones who spend extra time helping them learn complex concepts or information. They do everything they can to help a teacher perform their duties, and sometimes that means long hours of preparation for a class project or cleaning up after a big lesson. Teacher’s aides are the unsung heroes of schools.

Janitors are the behind-the-scenes heroes of schools, particularly elementary schools. I mean, have you seen what a first-grade classroom looks like after the Halloween party? Janitors and their maintenance staff work tirelessly to make sure that the school building is in working order. And many schools have maintenance staff who work at night so that the kids and faculty walk into a fresh, clean building every morning. The next time you leave a classroom party, do a little extra cleanup because there’s a janitor who will thank you.

School bus drivers deserve a special place in heaven. Seriously. You think your kids are loud in your minivan? Multiply that by 100. And then stop what you are doing and kiss your kids’ bus driver full-mouth for getting your kid to and from school safely.

Volunteers get a bad rap because some bad-apple PTA moms have ruined it for the rest of them. But, the truth is, there are millions of parents out there who cheerfully donate their time and resources so our kids can have a quality experience in the classroom. If you volunteer and you aren’t a mean mom, I am slow clapping for you. School volunteers deserve medals.

Food services employees have a tough job, particularly when it comes to allergies and food intolerances, and these employees deserve a high-fucking-five. Parents often don’t realize how much planning goes into a school’s menu, much less how hard it is to provide healthy meals that are safe for all of the children in the cafeteria. This is a job that deserves more recognition than these workers usually get. Lunchroom monitors are the brunt of many jokes, but it’s time we give them an apple for making sure our kids get the nutrition they need to learn (sorry not sorry, Adam Sandler).

School nurses. Seriously, can we just stand up and give our school nurses a standing ovation right now? They do so much more than just hand out Band-Aids and ice packs. They develop care plans for kids who have diabetes, ADHD, and other physical differences. They monitor heights and weights, conduct eye exams, and administer medication. And when an emergency happens in a classroom, school nurses stabilize the situation, typically with little field support or equipment, until the paramedics can relieve them. So when they ask you to fill out your emergency contact card, just freaking do it because they don’t have time to track you down when your kid needs help.

Every day, your kid is surrounded by an army of dedicated people who are ready, willing, and able to make sure they succeed in their education. So when the holidays roll around, don’t forget to send a card or note of thanks to those who are the oft-forgotten warriors of school buildings. They will appreciate it more than you know.

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