When working with teenagers, most mentors will find themselves in a school setting at some point. Here is a hidden key toward accomplishing anything in a school situation: Show appropriate respect to the school’s secretaries, the school’s nurse, the school’s ‘lunch ladies’, the school’s paraprofessionals and the school’s custodians.
Many people with collegiate degrees will underestimate the importance these people make in how well an educational organization is run and, more importantly, how vital these professionals (because they are professionals…) play a role in the lives of teenagers.
First of all, I use the phrase, “Hired Help” in the title as complete sarcasm. What most people do not know is that schools are run by the secretaries and the custodians. They are the unsung forces, behind the scenes, that make a school work.
For instance, the secretaries are the first line of confrontation when anyone (parents, media, etc.) calls the school with negative concerns or comments. These secretaries are expected to field such calls with professionalism and grace even when they are bombarded with attacks regarding topics or situations over which they have no control or inclusion. These school secretaries endure verbal abuse, and yet they are not shown the same respect as those who have collegiate degrees.
Comparatively, custodians are sometimes treated even worse. They work so hard to make schools into effective learning environments, yet they are not only regarded with a lack of respect, but they are often treated as invisible which diminishes the hard work that they do.
Why does this fall under the category of, “Teen Mentoring”? First of all, to be a mentor to a teenager includes helping them to realize how valuable people are regardless of the occupation they happen to hold at the time in which they encounter that person. Secondly, it is SO important to teach teens (and everyone else) to value ALL people regardless of what position they hold or their socioeconomic status. That is the reason I put the phrase, “Hired Help”, in quotation marks in the title of this article. These people who work tirelessly behind the scenes are so valuable, that if you, as a teen mentor, find yourself in a school environment, know this: The secretaries, custodians, paraprofessionals, the school nurse and the “lunch ladies” rule the school. Don’t ignore them or perceive them as insignificant; they can possibly give you more information and insight about your teen than anyone else in the building.