Every Single Person Counts

A few years ago, I was the featured speaker for the faculty/staff professional development day for an entire school district. The session was going great, as the audience seemed to really connect with my message and had a lot of fun participating in the activities that I had planned. Then I asked the question: Where are the members of the cafeteria staff? After a moment of uncomfortable silence, one of the principals informed me that they had not been invited to attend.

I always like to joke that one of the wonderful things about speaking is that you get to say whatever you want, and then you can leave. So, in this case, I took this opportunity to share an important message: every single person counts. Indeed, I made the case that the cafeteria workers could be among the most important people in any school, since they may be the only ones who see every student every day. If Mark’s eating habits have drastically changed or Keisha’s behavior has become quite different in the cafeteria, these individuals might be the only adults who will notice. And if they feel like equal partners in the educational process, they can share this information with others who can intervene and make things better. Regardless of title or degrees, all of us are important and should be valued.

At my last school, the woman who worked the cash register for years like a soldier guarding the base ended up dying unexpectedly. The students were devastated and organized several tributes to Ms. Ruby, far more than had been ever seen for any faculty member or administrator who had passed. She didn’t make much money, but clearly, she had made a huge difference.

That’s why whenever I get great customer service, I ask the workers for their names. At first, they worry that I’m going to complain about them! But then, I send an email to their supervisors offering praise — since you never know if anyone ever hears good things.

Let’s all resolve to be more cognizant of how we treat one another… to celebrate achievement wherever it exists… and to fully embrace inclusion in our personal and professional lives!

4 Comments

  1. I agree that everyone matters! I am so glad you recognize all staff everywhere…having paid my education by the service industry I appreciate you giving front line service employees recognition. I talk to our facilities staff each night thanking them for cleaning up after us…I ask them about their interests and listen and they listen to me….they are amazing people who matter!!!! Thank you Dr. G

  2. Finally someone who gets it. Looking forward to hearing you speak on Monday.

  3. Hi Dr. G –

    Just wanted to thank you for an excellent presentation to the Rhody Athletic Dept. Staff today. I share an office suite down in athletics with Brittney although my official job title is Director of Bystander Intervention Programs and I work for Naomi Thompson – the CDO – in Community, Equity & Diversity at URI. I teach 3 classes and would love to see a copy of your PowerPoint to use some of the photos with my.class.

    Would you mind sending me a copy of your presentations from today –
    If possible? If you don’t mind sharing,
    I’d really appreciate it. I also think you’d be a terrific resource for our CED Retreat this summer. What are your ballpark prices?

    Thanks!

    Keith

  4. Amen!
    So happy to read this knowing you will be speaking at Stevens.

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