On Waitressing… and Teaching
The following article, by ex-waitress J. Boulanger, appeared first in the June 1993 issue of The Whistle .
We don’t seem to be getting through to you. Teachers in this province are concerned for our students. We need smaller class sizes and extra help when kids with special needs are integrated among the other 30 students in our class.
Hey, but you probably haven’t been a student in our classrooms for a while now. Allow me to make a more relevant picture for you.
There’s a new restaurant in the neighborhood, and you decide to try it out for dinner. The waitress is slow in getting to you, but she seems pleasant enough, and explains that due to lack of funds, the manager has given each server a larger amount of tables to service than is optimal. You order your dinner and observe other customers while you are waiting.
The gentleman next to you seems a little confused. When the waitress arrives, he tells her in halting English that he cannot read the menu. She patiently reads it out to him, explaining each entry, makes some recommendations and then takes his order. The woman across from you calls the waitress over and explains that she is a diabetic and her companion has anaphylactic reactions to foods containing nuts. She asks for advice on what to order. The waitress needs to check with the cook about this, and lets the woman know that it may take a little while, as the cook has no kitchen help, due to lack of funds, and is very busy. You notice that at another table, a mentally handicapped customer is having some difficulties and has dropped all of his utensils several times. Each time, the waitress patiently arrives with some new cutlery to replace the soiled ones.
Suddenly, a woman in the far corner, who has been drinking quite heavily, begins shouting loudly, making threatening gestures to surrounding customers. The waitress quickly walks over to assist the waiter in that section to calm the customer. On the way, she must explain to a disgruntled customer, waiting for service in her own section, that due to lack of funds a bouncer has not been hired, so it is necessary for the staff to assist each other whenever violent situations arise.
Your meal finally arrives. It is of satisfactory quality, and to your amazement, the waitress has managed to get your meal to you still steaming hot. You are perturbed that you had to wait such a long time, but can empathize with your waitress’ situation. Throughout her hectic shift, she has maintained a calm, patient, caring and understanding exterior. You tip her well, but know that you will never return to this eating establishment again.
Now let’s bring this back to the classroom. You represent an “average” student. The diabetic and the anaphylactic customers represent “special needs” students, perhaps severely learning disabled or physically disabled. The mentally handicapped customer represents an “educable mentally handicapped student”. The belligerent, potentially violent customer represents a “severe behavior disorder” student who is a potentially violent customer. The man with halting English represents one of many “English as a Second Language” students (ESL).
The servers in this restaurant are teachers, and the cook’s helpers, bouncers, bussers and hosts/hostesses are the support personnel for those teachers (counselors, tutors, Learning Assistance teachers, ESL teachers, etc.). You are lucky. You can choose not to return to this restaurant. Think about the kids. They have no choice. Think about the teachers. Please try to understand. We are not complaining without just cause. We just want a better learning/teaching environment for our students, and yes, for ourselves.
The teachers who are not settling their contracts feel strongly that money needs to be directed towards their concerns, and that the money should not come out of their own salaries. Think about it. If you work really hard to make your customers happy, and more customers arrive, should your manager expect you to contribute your tips/wages to hire more staff?
If we aren’t happy with the “service” in our schools, how can we expect that cutting wages and reducing staff will make anything any better?
“Floggings will continue until morale improves” – You know that’s supposed to be a joke, not the way we really expect the world to work, right?