Required duties help build a strong school community

Sascha Wolf-Sorokin, Features News Writing Editor


A teacher helps a student clean up in the cafeteria during lunch. Taking part in lunch duty presents an opportunity for faculty members to connect with the student body. Ani Mathison/Sagamore Staff
A teacher helps a student clean up in the cafeteria during lunch. Taking part in lunch duty presents an opportunity for faculty members to connect with the student body. Ani Mathison/Sagamore Staff

It’s the end of lunch in the cafeteria and you see your teacher pushing around a trash bin and wonder… is this by choice, are they lending a helpful hand or is there a system in place that gives them this duty?

Teachers have many contractually required duties around the school, but teachers find they offer more atypical interactions between students and adults.

Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason distributes a survey asking teachers to rank their preferences for doing their duties. Teachers generally have duties for both the school and their department.

“Each teacher for the most part is responsible for two community responsibilities, so that would be cafeteria, study hall, library, advisory, faculty council, legislative, judicial council, the mindfulness initiative that’s been running for the past two years and morning cafeteria duty,” Mason said.

According to Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator Gary Shiffman, teachers are responsible for doing these duties because they are members of the community.

“There’s something about being a member of a community where everyone takes care of it, and so, duty is part of taking care of the community,” Shiffman said.

According to Mason, teachers need to have the ability to interact with students in different environments outside of the classroom.

“I think the type of interaction that can happen between a student and a teacher is far different than what typically happens in a classroom, and I think it’s enormously valuable and useful,” Mason said.

Social studies teacher Malcolm Cawthorne thinks that during his duties he is able to interact with students in a very different manner. He said that kids are not worried about the grade they will receive from him, which leads towards a different type of relationship.

“I like that aspect, that you can have these positive interactions with kids in a way that doesn’t fit the traditional power dynamic of schools,” Cawthorne said. “I’ve really enjoyed that.”

Through his duties, Cawthorne was also able to create relationships with other teachers.

“When I had cafeteria duty with Mr. Kestenbaum, who’s now retired, it was great because I only got to see him when we had lunch duty together,” Cawthorne said. “And so, in that way it sort of built community because I got to talk to him probably more than I would have otherwise.”

World Language Curriculum Coordinator Agnès Albérola said that cafeteria duty helps her see the school differently.

“It gives me another perspective on the school and a different respect for what the people in the cafeteria have to do on a day in day out, or what the student experience is like,” Albérola said. “I think it’s really important for me to get a window into what the students life is like, rather than just being in my office or a protected area.”

Shiffman is also able to see the school differently by having cafeteria duty.

“I gain perspective on how the school works,” Shiffman said. “I know how awful it is to stand in line waiting for lunch when you have half an hour before you have to get to your class.”

Albérola also said that students are able to reach out for help from her when they see her outside of her office while she is participating in one of her duties.

“Sometimes students will notice me and ask me questions having to do with world language, and maybe they wouldn’t necessarily take the time to find me in the building, or have the time, so they see me there and come and ask me about an exchange (trip) we’re doing or something else,” Albérola said.

According to Mason, it is crucial that students feel comfortable enough with the school community, to turn to an adult in the building. These duties provide another avenue for students to connect to a teacher.

“It’s so important for us to know that kids feel as if they have someone they can turn to,” Mason said. “It might not be the adviser, it might be the guidance counselor, or it might just be the science teacher, it might be a cafeteria worker, it might be somebody.”