Recognition. Visibility. Presence. When we are at the workplace, how often do you feel acknowledged for your contributions? How often do you know the full impact of your work, particularly as it relates to our students? The greater campus community?
Bori Kozek, a UC Berkeley student, recently authored a heartfelt poem to the custodial staff in the residence halls. Entitled “Just a Custodian,” Bori expressed her admiration and respect for all custodians and how they may often experience the silent treatment for their contributions. Here are some excerpts from Bori’s poem:
“If she were a family friend, you would talk to her. If she were a professor, you would respect her….If she were an athlete, you would say she’s amazing…But because she is ‘just a custodian,’ you pretend she’s not even there. You treat her like thin air….she works and works and works and works with no delay, with minimal pay…”
“You are not above her. You can not ignore her. You know exactly what it feels like to get the silent treatment…now imagine that silent treatment from not one but tens, hundreds, thousands of people every day.”
“So next time you see another human being…do not be afraid to ask. To talk. To praise her for her work…so that she can become more than ‘just a custodian,”…that you are one and the same. You are not above her.”
Bori shared her poem with the Units 1, 2, and 3 custodial staff this past week. According to Principal Custodial Supervisor Mark Kinnard, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house afterward. Mark stated, “This really was a special gift shared with staff. A few raised their hands to show their appreciation and shared their stories…it was unbelievable.”
Bori Kozek reminds us all of the impact that we can have on one another in the workplace, and how we are all connected to the student experience. How often do we praise and acknowledge one another? How can we break the silence among ourselves, particularly during this time?
To read the complete version of Bori’s poem, please view the PDF link below.