One Sunflower

customer service

I’m new to Trader Joe’s.  The store really hasn’t been in our community that long and I’d never shopped at one before it opened here. But I sure had heard a lot about it; the chain has a loyal customer base.

At first, I was a bit disarmed by the experience. The aisles are narrow.  Imagine, actually having to talk to another customer in order to negotiate my way.  Employees in green aprons hover next to new items ready to share recipe ideas and it is downright dangerous to try to rush in the wine and beer aisles – so much glass!

I usually stop there on Sunday after church because it’s on my way home.  There are no racks to hold carts in the parking lot, everyone is on the honor system to walk their cart back.  So I keep my purchases to what I can carry in two bags – because shopping on Sunday really isn’t what I want to be doing anyway, I’m eager to get home for my last bits of me-time before the work week.

Even so, I have become charmed by the check-out portion of my visits to Trader Joe’s.  I never know what the clerk is going to say to me but I have no doubt that we’ll have a conversation – a totally different experience than the norm at other grocery stores.  The man or woman at the cash register always asks me a question and it’s never been anything like, “How are you?”  On my most recent trip, the young man commented on the number of pie crust packages I was buying, (I love TJ’s pie crusts!)  “What kind of pies do you make?” he asked.  I responded and he went on to ask a few more questions.

These questions don’t interrupt the service; I’m sure that my time at the counter is the same as any other store, but what a difference!  The clerk and I always part with smiles and neither of us has said the obligatory “have a nice day” or “you, too.”  Instead we are truly thinking and feeling it!

So check out the next time you check out, and try not to check out!

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what helps you improve your practice?

I mean really pushes you to think deeply about the work you do and how to make it better.

I’m sure we can all name the usual stuff – day to day trial and error, reflecting as we make curriculum plans, discussions we have with colleagues.  If we are lucky enough to be part of a larger cohort then there are the actions we take as part of our professional development plans – which usually involves some initial goal setting, learning to use new curriculum or tools, reporting about successes and challenges.

I do all that stuff – but the real question is – does my practice improve?

If I work alone in my classroom,  the only way I can really tell if I’m making an impact on my students is through the formal and informal assessments I do as well as my interviews with their families.

But if I open my doors and invite colleagues in, the multiple perspectives of those professionals provide lenses I will never get on my own.

I think of the pictures I’ve seen of insect eyes, you know the ones I’m referring to.  The extreme magnification shows the multiples of lenses that cover the surface of the eye capturing image after image of what the insect sees.  The duplicated images vary slightly depending on their position on the curve.

Everyone who comes into my room to observe, evaluate my work, spend time with my students or just hang out provides one of those images for me.  And when I put them together – with help, of course, I get a better picture of my “practice.”  This year, the admin team from the HeadStart office is coming in a few times a year and using the CLASS observation tool to evaluate what’s going on in my classroom.  It’s fascinating stuff and I’m enjoying learning about my work through the lens of that tool.

My newest venture is that I’m video-taping myself.  So now I’m becoming one of those visitors into my own room!  It is weird; lately I’ve been pulling them out on Sunday night to review on my computer.  I have a couple of them done so I’m ready to sit down with someone else and get some feedback.

But I need to figure out what it is I want to know.  So that’s my job this weekend, to come up with a question, or a problem of practice that I want to examine, and then watch myself over time to see if I can figure out ways to improve what I’m doing.

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real heroes

Back in October, when the evenings were still light, and the weather not so damp, I dutifully volunteered to give Pedro a ride to his first Policy Council Meeting.  I was pleased to have found a parent representative for our classroom and didn’t want anything to be a barrier for his participation.  The meetings are held once a month in Bellingham, a 25 mile drive from Everson, in a part of the city that isn’t familiar to non-native residents.  Driving Pedro to the meeting was a simple solution to ensure his presence and our representation in the HeadStart community.

Pedro’s first meeting should have been back in November but that meeting was cancelled because of snow.  Then I had to cancel because of family issues in December. I really wanted to make sure nothing got in the way of his attending the January meeting.

I worked my regular day, drove back into Bellingham for a mammogram, then home for a quick bite and back out to Everson to pick up Pedro at 5. It rained all day, all afternoon, all evening.  Pedro doesn’t know much English so it was a silent drive.  I sat in the back of the meeting and knit – almost 12 inches on a sweater for my daughter! I was thankful for the knitting, I was bored out of my mind with the meeting and felt so sorry for Pedro, wearing a headset to hear the translation and probably fairly clueless about a lot of the content which involved some budget items from the fall and decisions about staff positions.

I appreciated what HeadStart is doing – involving parents in the policies and decisions that control and govern the agency and encouraging their awareness and participation in the education of their child.  But the format of the meeting isn’t really conducive to a novice really learning and understanding this governing body and how to be a part of it. I know that I will have to spend time with Pedro helping him make meaning of this responsibility he has volunteered for.

We were finally back in the car at 8:20, driving east in the dark and rain, silently.  I’m sure Pedro was as eager to end the evening as I was.

It is a good thing the drive was long because I spent the first 15 minutes congratulating myself on my martyrdom and the sacrifices I was making to insure Pedro’s participation in this venture.

Thankfully, the reality of the situation hit me over the head for the next 45 minutes of my drive to Everson and back again: this dedicated father had volunteered to participate in a function that was going to be frustrating and probablyvery boring for him but he is eager to help his children at school and believes that parent involvement is important.

So suck it up girl.  Go to bed early tonight and show up and do your best for this dad’s kid tomorrow. Because he’s certainly holding up his end of the bargain.

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