Principal’s Blog: Principle 8: Sweep the shed

Principle 8 – Sweep the Shed

From the age of 16, through to my penultimate year of university, I worked at McDonalds, both in my home town of Bromley and York, where I was studying. I adored the job and learnt so many available lessons about hard work, building relationships and leadership. If I had to quit teaching tomorrow I would return to work at the famous golden arches in a heartbeat. However, the day I quit working there taught me also a great deal about the importance of our next principle- sweep the sheds.

At the start of my second year of university I decided I needed a part-time job as I was quickly burning through my savings and student loans. I had worked for a number of years previously in McDonalds in London at floor-manager level so had no problem transferring to the York store. However, my time there was short lived. Twas the night-shift Halloween 2005 and the store was busy with students and revellers alike in a variety of garish costumes. Towards the end of my shift the front of house, in charge of cleaning tables etc, came to see me to say the toilets were in a shocking state. Upon inspection this statement turned out to be an understatement. As the store was closing soon I put a closed sign on the toilets.

Now usually cleaning the toilets was not the job of the floor manager level but I knew I couldn’t let the ‘front of house’ face this task alone, so when all the customers left I donned an apron and helped them tackle it. When the shift manager saw this he laughed and told me that this was beneath me and the staff wouldn’t respect a floor manager who cleaned toilets. When I asked him to help finish the job quicker so we could all go home he chuckled again, threw me the keys and left the store.

This interaction told me everything about the culture in that store and I handed in my notice the very next day. That store-manager would have been earning roughly 6 times more per hour than the ‘front of house’ but turned their nose up at helping out. From that day I have had a personal mantra of never asking staff to do anything I wasn’t willing to do myself.

Now I understand that businesses and schools have to have hierarchies and each of us has a job description. However, we all have a responsibility to make this school a great place to work. Whether or not it’s Mr Sherlock helping Mr Davies build the benches, Ms Kelly covering reception, the Teaching Assistant team, Ms Stones, Ms Manjara Mr Ali, Mr McDermott and Mr Bettison, helping out with uniform collection or Mr Umarji driving the bus, time and time again staff at King’s go out of their way to make this school great.

Finally, a word on humility, the dictionary definition states humility is ‘the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance’. I tend to disagree with this (not that humble to claim a dictionary is wrong), for me humility is not having a low view of your own importance but rather the importance of others, regardless of their job title. It comes back to the janitor at NASA who when asked what his role was he simply replied ‘helping to put a man on the moon’. Each and everyone one of us has a part to play in our mission to create successful citizens, so there can never be any job too small if it helps us achieve this.