Staff Appreciation Days should be the norm at schools.
I know many schools have their own Staff Appreciation Day and that's brilliant. And, I HOPE they include all the non-educators on this day as well. There are SO many wonderful souls working at schools. I am, of course, privileged to interact with the non-teaching staff members at schools when I visit.
After having been off sick for three weeks, I am now visiting the schools again. The reception I receive at all the schools makes me feel like the prodigal son! Before I can engage the school principal, the admin staff and the ground staff also want to chat and welcome me back. They show no reserve. We get ourselves all tangled in hugs, greetings, health enquiries and well wishes until everybody is satisfied that all is well.
I love the response of the school heads when these exchanges take place. They do not try to stop these conversations and often just stand in the background, enjoying and silently approving this display of mutual affection. At one school, just after the bell had rung to signal the end of second interval, a teacher popped his head into the principal's office. He apologised and said he just wanted to welcome me back.
Andre Lamprecht, one of our new school principals, showed me the screensaver on his phone. His screensaver is a picture of two smiling Grade 2s, a boy and a girl.
"This picture is my inspiration. When I look at this picture of these two beautiful children, I am reminded why I am at this school," said Andre.
I can identify with this school head. Like Andre, I too, have many mental pictures of amazing school heads, the entire staffs at schools and thousands of children in our school, that remind me why I am in education.
As much as I need to ensure that we comply with all the rules and regulation so that the quality of educational service delivery is not compromised, I need to remind myself that we are working with human beings at schools. These human beings know how to love, care, share and build healthy relationships. We ignite their human agency when they know we value them, that their feelings matter and that we know that they have the capacity to help transform our schools.
To all the support staff members at schools: Know that you are deeply valued for far more than the routine tasks that you do to keep our schools functioning optimally. In your quiet, almost invisible manner, you help to keep us grounded so that we don't lose our sense of self and more importantly, our humanity.
We would love to hear how you celebrate your staff at your school so that we can share good practices that others can use.