For these past two weeks, I’ve been preparing for Summer STAR and getting to know more about LSH and its staff. This is a compilation of my noticings and evaluations of my time so far and my thoughts for the coming weeks.
Note: LSH= Lutheran Settlement House, OST= Out of School Time program, BDVP= Bilingual Domestic Violence Program
Let’s talk about the Fridays here. Because, oh my goodness, I have never seen such camaraderie within an office. Everyone had talked about how exciting Fridays are here, but working in OST kept me busy with the kids and I didn’t get to see the excitement. This past Friday however, I got to see how the department of BDVP works so well.
Last Friday was not just any Friday, it was also the last day for Sam, my supervisor for OST. Therefore, we had a going away party at the office and an additional goodbye at a nearby restaurant afterwards. That means I spent about 4 hours of work time hanging out with the staff and sharing stories. I would like to note that throughout the going away party at the office, several people popped in to trade shifts on the hot-line and take a break or to cover the front desk, so that others could also enjoy a break too. Our head director even took a shift at the front desk to cover for someone. That is the best example of how my coworkers take care of each other, create an environment of fluidity between roles and jobs, and take care of themselves. I have been reading so many training manuals recently on how to facilitate and how to create effective group dynamics, but if anything distracts me from my readings, it is thinking of how wonderfully LSH emulates the efficiency and balance that the manuals try to describe.
The third floor department at LSH has a careful balance between personal and professional that works so well in the context of their work. The manual discusses how different cultures will have different approaches to work and how different groups may finish in the same amount of time using different methods that result in their own work expectations. It also discusses the importance of maintenance and task work, where one focuses on the relational aspect and workers, while the other focuses on getting the job done, respectively. Both are necessary, but depending on someone’s background or practices, they may value one over the other. Particularly, the maintenance job can be forgotten in the need to just do a job or it can go unnoticed. This may work in some settings, but at LSH they have shown how to do both. Normalizing the maintenance role as a part of the task role creates an environment of emotionally healthy and hardworking individuals (but watch out now, because I’m throwing out some evaluation statements).
The training manual (clearly it made an impact on me) states the importance of differentiating between noticings, observations without judgments, and evaluations, observations with value judgments (opinions). I’d like to share both with you. My noticings: my coworkers tease each other often, my coworkers take breaks to stand outside on the deck, my coworkers will take time to eat Twizzlers while walking around the office and talking and laughing with others, my coworkers decorate each others desks often, especially for going-aways and promotions or new hires, my coworkers say goodbye to everyone before leaving and hello to everyone upon arrival. They keep their office doors open, host barbecues, and plan retreats to attend together. My evaluation: my coworkers do this because it makes them happy, it takes care of them emotionally and provides a break, it creates a welcoming and supportive environment, it is part of their job. It is the maintenance task. It blends between personal and relational and weaves itself into supporting their professional work and it is just as important and worthy of their time and pay as their task role.
Working at the BDVP is emotionally draining (for everyone else; I’m just an intern) and maybe even a little work out physically (three flights of stairs daily). The hotline runs 24/7 which means that even when I’m last out of the office, there is someone there holding down the fort. Everyone who is trained takes turns, covers for each other, and supports one another after the calls, both logistically and emotionally. From just reading the domestic violence scenarios in the “In Their Shoes” classroom programming, I was stressed and sad. I can’t imagine what it’s like to talk to real people, to be expected to know the exact resource that can help them, to remain calm, and then to take the next call or the next case. The beautiful decorations, the little notes of wisdom, the constant supply of Twizzlers, and the room full of colleagues and support is what keeps them going, I believe. They have set up the foundation and created a space that would optimize their work. That is something to admire.
I’m thankful for everyone that has welcomed my questions, left their door open for me, and for giving me so much trust. Since everyone is in and out of the office on different days, there is no one who can regularly check my time-in and time-out. But they trust me to come in and do my work and for that I’m grateful and a little shocked. Shocked when I finished everything and was allowed to to leave an hour early, shocked when my coworker said she’d take responsibility for letting me leave early if I got in trouble (which I did not), and shocked when they let me sit in and learn about pregnancy (it’s a long story) or sit in during their information session with an immigration attorney. It makes me work harder to be worthy of that trust. As of now, I’ve finished preparing everything for STAR and work for the lowly intern seems a bit non-existent; however, I will continue offering to pick up some work here and there and learning more about how to best facilitate STAR. The in-between time can be frustrating, but it has taken care of my maintenance needs, so I now know I can go into STAR and give the students my best work! I’m ready to start swimming.