Monday Morning Musings

Posted on September 13, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with 2 comments

The Kilted Secretary


“Tumble out of bed and I stumble to the kitchen,

Pour myself a cup of ambition

And yawn and stretch

And try to come alive.”

9 To 5 – Dolly Parton

I never pictured myself as a secretary.

And you probably can’t either.

A 70-year-old balding man sitting behind a desk, answering the phone, typing reports and doing all those things that make secretaries indispensable. “Len. Are you smoking the wacky tabaccy again?”

Oddly enough, I have had some practical training as a secretary. Back in 1994, I started a financial planning practice from a small room in the basement of our house on Viewville Street. The room was just big enough for me and one client to sit comfortably. When couples arrived, things got tricky. There was barely enough space to change my mind. At the time, I was 42, I had zero clients, an empty filing cabinet, and 4 children under the age of 10, one floor above. I was highly motivated to succeed! Even if I could have afforded a secretary (which I couldn’t) he/she would have had to work from our garage out back. In other words, I had to do all the jobs in order to survive.

I mean no disrespect to principals. They are the educational leaders of our schools. A great principal makes a teacher’s life infinitely easier.

But make no mistake, when it comes to running a school, we all know full well the two most important people in the building: the secretary and the janitor.

My first gig as a teacher was in 1976 in Fairview, Alberta. I was wet behind the ears. It took me quite a while to learn how to become an effective teacher but less than 2 days to realize that Bonnie and Laura in the office and Alphonse, our janitor, ran the show. The secretary (ies) and janitors are the eyes and ears of the school. They know EVERYTHING that is going on. Principals confide in them. Teachers confide in them and most importantly, the students confide in them. The janitor’s closet was my personal confessional box! And if you’re really lucky and these people have a good sense of humour, then the chances are that you will have a happy and healthy school. Bonnie, Laura, and Alphonse possessed all these traits and more. Indispensable.

Those of you who read all my posts know that I am back up north in a different capacity than the previous 2 years. I am helping with some administrative tasks and will fill in for teachers when necessary. In the early going, it has been 100% administrative. I have lived in the office. And with all due respect to Dolly Parton, my day starts quite a bit earlier than 9:00!

Filling job positions anywhere in Canada during a pandemic is challenging. The Dairy Queen in our hometown in Nova Scotia was offering a signing bonus of $1000 along with better than average wages not long ago. Filling positions in the north is even more difficult.

I am grateful that I am task oriented because the tasks are endless in a school. These have not been normal times in our school. There have been a host of challenges since Day 1.

Our principal is a rock star. She has boundless energy, and she needs this. She is a whirling dervish. Most often, her cup is overflowing with work. To compound this extreme workload, she injured her ankle a few weeks ago and is on crutches. No longer can she sprint around the school. Lately, I have not only been her right arm but also her right leg! I can tell you that if I followed her around all day when she had two good legs, I would be in the best shape of my life.

While I miss the students, I don’t miss the daily pressure of lesson plans, teaching, recess duty, report cards etc. I can see all of you retired (and active) teachers nodding your heads. Holding one end of a skipping rope in the playground when it’s -30 is NOT where I want to be at 70.

The phones had been ringing off the wall this past week. Late on Friday afternoon, I took a call from the Board’s Head Office in Montreal. They were trying to complete the list of staff people in all of the schools. The person on the line was asking for the name of our secretary. I grinned. For a moment I thought I would reply that I was secretary pro tem, but in the end, I said that the position was vacant at the present time.

I am thinking of getting my kilt shipped to the north.

Have a great week.



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