This year I made the move across campus from the dorm to the school. Not only am I now a day person instead of a vampire as one teacher used to call the deans, but I am seeing life here – a place which I feel I know quite well; a place in which I have worked for 11 years full-time, plus approx. another year with all of the part-time – in a totally different way.
One of the more obvious differences is how I arrive and leave. As a dean I always went to work in the daylight and always went home in the dark. A dean’s work-life begins as the rest of the work force is ending their day and ends in the late – early? – hours of the night. Being a day person means that (yes, depending on the time of year) I watch the sunrise on the drive to work and drive home while it is still light out.
A less obvious difference is I knew that at some point I would feel a disconnect with what was going on in the dorm/after-school life of the students. But I was not prepared for how immediate that disconnect would be. The dorm and the school work hand-in-hand yet are such distinct and different places. Once I head home at 4:30 (or 5:00, or 7:00 depending on the day), I have no clue what goes on in the lives of the students. As a dean I was intimately aware of their ups, their downs, the classes they enjoyed or really didn’t, the things that made them laugh, their crushes, their fights, their music preferences, their plans for the weekend/summer/fall. I don’t miss having to referee the fights, but I miss knowing who they are, on those deep, interpersonal levels.
I was not prepared for the connections that I would have. For how often students would come to the office for a reprieve from the stresses of their day. For how often they would come to confide in me or want to just talk. For their need of a pencil, or scissors, or poster paper. For how I could sense what kind of a day they were having just by how they walked down the hall to their next class. And something that makes me laugh is how often they will bring me things like homework assignments, application forms, and such, that they don’t quite know what to do with, feeling a little like “here mom, can you put this in your purse?”
There are students who need someone to help with knowing when to take Advil and when it’s time to see a doctor. Someone to make that doctor/dentist/hair appointment for them. (At what point did we learn that we could make some of those calls ourselves and it wasn’t as scary as we thought?) Students who need a little help getting up and getting over to the school in the morning; who will be told that they are missed, are important, and we want them to join us. Students who will pop into the office everyday, just to say “Hi.”
In between all of those interactions, I attempt to answer the phones, check the emails, and do the tasks that help keep the school running smoothly. I don’t always manage, but most days it seems to work out.
One last thought. I’ve always been a person that has arrived for work earlier than the prescribed start time so that I could prepare for the day (check email, mentally prepare, have coffee, etc.). My workday technically starts at 8:00 am but I normally get to school at about 7:30 am. The great thing about getting to work early, is that when I accidentally sleep in and leave the house 20 minutes late – I’m still early for work. 🙂