The "Right" Way
After college I shocked friends and family by picking up and moving to Miami, Florida. After researching Teaching positions, I became flabbergasted to discover that Miami rent was triple an Ohio rent, and yet a Miami Teacher's starting salary in 2003, was the same as an Ohio Teacher. So I waited tables at a Cafe in Coconut Grove. Sadly, it was much more lucrative.
One evening a guest at one of my tables introduced herself as "Maria." She was impressed with my service, and told me she was hiring. She presented a crisp white business card with a small tree on it that read: "Director of Human Resources." Fancy.
While I didn't realize it until a few hours later at home in front of "Google," Maria was from The Four Seasons Hotel- one of the most prestigious hotel chains in the world.
I jumped on the opportunity. After a 6 hour interview process with 4 different levels of management, I was hired as a pool attendant. The following day 20 new employees sat in a hotel meeting room with polished cherry wood paneled walls and leather chairs. They passed out fresh fruit, distilled water, and thick binders stuffed with policies, philosophies and agendas. I felt a mixture of awe and fear as a small Asian woman carrying a handbag that cost more than my car filled us in on our new jobs.
Among the most important things I learned that day, and over the next nine months working with them (intended or not intended) are listed and numbered for your reading convenience below:
1. Four Seasons Guests aren't just treated like Gold. They are Gold.
2. We will treat you like Gold, so that you treat the Guests in kind.
3. If you begin to imagine that you are Gold for any other reason than to pass on uncompromising service to CEO's, CFO's, and Princes from countries we cannot pronounce... you will promptly be reminded of your place. You are indeed wonderful, but replaceable.
4. Rewards for good work will be bigger and better than other jobs you have worked at.
5. Punishments for bad work will be swifter and harsher than other jobs you have worked at.
6. Perfection is perhaps unattainable... but we will try to get you there regardless.
7. Money does indeed buy many more things than can be imagined in a middle class upbringing.
8. The Guest is always right. Even when they are wrong. Never say "no." Never argue. Always be humble and apologetic. Smile as you do this.
9. You are always being watched. The Guests watch you, the staff watches you, and there are cameras in planters that watch you too. Don't even pick your nose without first considering it's ramifications.
10. "Be Afraid. Be very Afraid."
There was never so clear an example of this, than the day they began formally evaluating the service staff. By then I worked as a Cocktail Server in the Piano Bar. A manager would silently and anonymously watch us as we served a table. It could be any table, at any time, and we would not know about it until a briefing later on. They would grade us on a list of bulleted items that we were expected to hit accurately in order to maintain good standing at the hotel.
One morning I came in on the Banquet floor, and as I headed towards the locker room I saw a large poster board on the wall. There in huge black Sharpie marker was a chart listing all of our names and our grades. I was on the only "C" in a group of "A's and B's." That was my first introduction to shame-based motivation... and I was indeed ashamed.
It was also the first time I realized how a large "ship"operates when trying to trouble shoot. The Four Seasons Management had undoubtedly targeted a problem with Employee Steps of Service. Certainly they didn't have time or resources to examine the unique personalities of their employees and determine the most effective way to motivate and train each one. No way. This would be an insane waste of time... not to mention close to impossible to implement with hundreds of people.
So they instituted a one size fits all grading plan. Sound familiar teachers? And it worked for the ego-driven types that were fueled by competition... but for a 23 year old from the Midwest... it horrified me. I was so humiliated, that for my last few months working there, I would get sweaty and stressed just thinking about serving a table. I had always been a fantastic server in the past- indeed that was what got me here in the first place. Yet my nerves translated directly to my performance, and both continued to nose dive until one of the upper level managers pulled me aside one day to ask if I needed "extra help."
Do you have a Resource Room you're going to send me to also?
This was an important lesson for me. In order to maximize time and resources, institutions narrow the options down to "one fix." The problem is... there is no "fix for ALL." There is only "a fix for me" which might not be "a fix for you"... so on and so forth.
Fast forward to 2009 as an Art Teacher in white upper-middle class suburbia. There are countless different ways to teach children... millions of different kids to teach... with ONE system of education for their needs. There are a lot of kids looking at the poster board on the wall and feeling ashamed. When their confidence and performance takes a nose dive- the system starts to scratch it's head. "But look at all the students who are doing so WELL with this." Clearly, something is wrong. Perhaps they need "Extra Help." We'll give them Special Services.
And they don't. They just need a system that looks at them as says:
"YOU'RE PERFECT JUST THE WAY YOU ARE."
There Is No One Right Way
This Brazen Teacher is one of my favorite edubloggers. She really hits one out of the park with this one. So clear, so easy to relate to. Read it, bookmark her, and read the rest of her stuff. She is a gem!