The Hidden Heroes

My middle school has a cast ion characters that could rival the uniqueness and hilarity of The Office. From the office staff trying to pacify a belligerent parent, to the new 6th students in August who are wondering when recess fits into the schedule, to the youthful-looking teacher who keeps getting stopped in the corridor and asked to see her hall pass, Timberview Middle School could keep the viewers wanting more and laughing uncontrollably.

What really gets noticed, however, are the heroes of the school that are hidden in the shadows. The kid who has his own assigned seat outside the principal’s office is known by most of the school, but the folk who keep the wheels and springs of the institutional community well-oiled are passed over and not thought of.

My classroom has two boys, J and J, who stack and chairs and help clean up at the end of each school day. I never asked them to help, never even suggested it. They just do it…day after day, like a two-person team in rhythm as they complete the task. Other students, clueless to anything outside the three-foot area around them, chit-chat and stand around waiting for that dismissal bell to sound, but J and J keep at it until completion.

And then there’s our custodial crew. Most students don’t even think about the fact that the trash is taken out, toilet paper is available in the restroom, and scuff marks magically disappear over night from there hallways. They just assume that the iced-over sidewalks will be cleared by the hand of the Almighty and that the laptop computer they left in the gym will be taken care of until they get around to looking for it again. They clean up what the adolescent residents don’t feel obligated to clean up. After all, their moms and dads clean up after them at home. I think there should be a day when our school custodians get to sit down and be waited upon by the students. On the other hand, since they are part of the hidden heroes, they would probably feel very uncomfortable having Little Johnny serving them a plate of nachos.

Our school nurse gives out more bags of ice each day than the local party store on New year’s Eve. She distributes band-aids in bulk, and listens to the moans and groans of countless students who believe they have some kind of terminal cough that conveniently appears every time they have a scheduled math test. She’s the school medical mom who makes the boo-boos feel better, as well as tend to the student who tripped going down the stairs and now needs a wheelchair. She tends to the needs of ten-times as many students each day than my physician and takes care of the students who should never have come to school that day to begin with but their parents didn’t know what to do with them. She’s the hidden health hero.

And don’t forget about the thankless job that our crossing guards have. Stopping impatient parents who are steaming because their pre-ordered drink at Starbucks is losing its steam is a part of their daily routine. Keeping the young ones from being run over by the texting, tardy high schooler is her daily mission. Future doctors, lawyers, scientists, and teachers owe their careers to the stop sign she has hoisted and her eye that spotted a potential tragedy before it could occur.

And finally, there are the substitute teachers. Have a flu run through part of a teaching staff and see what happens when there are not enough substitute teachers available. Truth be told, there are some students who see substitute teacher as fresh meat to satisfy their appetite for creating misery. The teacher who is in the classroom everyday knows who the warts are that enjoy drawing attention to themselves in irritating ways. Substitute teachers usually don’t know the history of why a certain student has been assigned the seat right next to the teacher’s desk until it’s too late. They received a phone call that morning, listened to the voice of the school person desperately looking for a last-minute fill-in and agreed to help. If the answer would have been to decline, the caller might have hung up and started to weep. Like the circus lion-tamer, the guest teacher enters the classroom cage, minus a whip. Most classes are fine, but there are some…oh, man!…there are some that are earthly reflections of what purgatory must be like. Substitute teachers are the hidden, humble, and sometimes humiliated heroes.

Every school has been blessed by heroes such as these: students, support staff, and people with servant hearts. I’m not sure how any school can properly function without them.

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