As Monday greeted the start of another week, I began a new chapter in my career.
I had been pre-warned, from various sources, of the vastly different setting I’m about to enter into. Working in a school, even if you’re not directly related to working with the kids, is very different to the corporate, office environments I’ve been so used to all my professional life. And truly, I thought I was prepared for what was to come, thinking that the ‘worst’ I had to deal with was excessive noise from over 1200 students during break times.
One of my responsibilities as Communications & Facilities Co-ordinator at the College is to liaise with groundsmen and cleaners for any facilities’ maintenance and repairs that needed to be undertaken. My start to the role coincided with the newly appointed Archbishop’s visit to the College, so I came in to the busyness of ensuring that everything, from glass panels to gardens around the College, were spotless and immaculate for the impending visit.
So, on Monday morning, on my second tour around the school ground, accompanied by my line manager and the head cleaner, I inspected the boys’ toilets!
The last time I went into the opposite sex’s toilet was when I was in primary school, designating this place as the most suitable hiding place when playing ‘hide and seek’ with my female friends. I grew out of that quickly and have never set foot on the place since. So imagine my… horror was perhaps not the right word – awkwardness, maybe?, when I discovered that one of the toilets’ had on-going ‘trashing’ problems we had to address and try to stop before the Archbishop’s visit (don’t want him to walk past and comment on the unkempt appearance or the rancid smell wafting out of the place, do we?). I had to politely, and perhaps a bit naively ask both my line manager and the cleaner if there was a certain etiquette I need to follow to enter the opposite sex’s toilet. It turned out that apart from banging on the front door and yelling “Hello? Anybody there?”, there really wasn’t, and I was quite within my rights to ‘barge’ into the boys’ toilets to inspect its state.
Tuesday came around quickly, and both the person I work very closely to and have quite an overlap of responsibilities and myself had to hit the shops to get some supplies – again, to pretty up some of the places the Archbishop would be visiting. My partner-in-crime told me, casually, “Right! I’ve booked the College ute – you’re driving!” Umm… I’m sorry? Ute? Never driven one of those before.
It was a vehicle I was about to get acquainted VERY closely over the next few days. Once I could manoeuvre my way around, in and out of carparks, the real test came on Thursday, when the head groundsman and I had to team up and loaded the ute up with chairs/tables/other furnitures to be loaned out to a brand new school due to open in 2013. They were having a blessing of the site, currently filled with yet-to-be-flattened dirt and filled with construction equipments, and, having no resources of their own just yet, they had turned to our College for assistance.
So, to easily load these furnitures, I have had to drive the ute up the pathway located at the front of our multi-purpose hall. This is the path meant for walking, not for a ute to drive up and down it. And given the size of the ute, and the footpath, with steel bars lining either side of the driveway, I had only a few centimetres gap on either side (I’m not exaggerating either!). Coupled this with trying to get the students off the footpath (the older ones were no problems, but the little prep and early years’ cherubs were… hmm… interesting, to say the least), and I had to apply everything I’ve learnt about driving and three-point turns to get this ute in and out of this narrow footpath.
On Wednesday, I had to help supervise Yr 8 immunisations. Again, I was warned by my new colleagues that some students might cry. I was told to wear black so that eyeliners and mascaras from those upset students I had to comfort on my shoulders don’t show on my shirt.
I had difficulty believing that year 8 students would cry over needles; an opinion I had had to revise when I saw those first few tears drop from some whom had worked themselves up so much they were crying even when they were waiting in line. And whilst I managed to keep my non-black top clean from running make-up, I did have to pull several conversation topics I could think of to distract them from their fear of needles. It worked, to a certain degree, and as I’m sure that this won’t be the last of my supervision duty, I can certainly do better next time.
Thursday – D-Day – the Archbishop was coming!!!! In addition to manoeuvring the ute every which way, I was also getting better acquainted with operating the helium tank to blow balloons of our College colours for centrepieces around the place. It made one hell of a high-pitched, squeaking noise – one that really made me cringe the first few times, but I would rather have this than having to blow the balloons one by one using only my not-so-great lung capacity
I was trying to stay out of the way when the Archbishop arrived and toured around the College – after all, in the bigger scheme of things, other school admin leadership team members were more prominent to be around him than I was. I was happy to be sent to the Acting Principal’s office, not because I had done something wrong, but because she forgot to wear her name badge and I had to rummage through her bag to get it and give it to her. I walked out to the main foyer of the College, only to stand face-to-face with the man himself and being introduced by the Principal. Unprepared, I stumbled over my words, giving myself a new title (Marketing & Communications Facilities Coordinator rather than Communications & Facilities Coordinator). Thank goodness there was no video camera crew present to record this slip-up, and the only evidence of my encounter with the Archbishop was a few photos, showing me smiling at the man and shaking his hand.
My first week at a new job ended with a long weekend, as Friday was a local region show holiday. Even though everyone I worked with had done their best to ‘ease me in’ to the role slowly, I still felt as though I’m plunging into the deeper end of the pool. It’s been a week of massive learning curves, and I’m looking forward to learning more, starting from tomorrow onwards!
Have you ever started in a job where you’ve been thrown into the deep end? How have you handled it? Which one do you prefer – being thrown into the deep end or ease into a new job slowly? Care to share? Would love to hear/read your experiences.