Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Where "Work" and "Kindergarten" Meet

And now, for a bit of nostalgia...remember elementary school? Those carefree days when milk and cookies, story time, and bright shiny stickers for good work were a regular part of our lives? Man, sometimes I miss the simplicity of that byegone era...although, technically, I suppose I can still enjoy all of those things...if it's a small portion of a trans-fat-free treat...reduced-sugar almond milk...and a book without pictures. As for the last one, hang on and we'll catch up with that in a minute.

Now, you might have gathered that I kind of....well...loved many aspects of being a student. And yes, I was indeed that Hermione-ish pupil who raised her hand to answer questions, always had a comment to contribute to class discussions, and proudly collected (and saved) her "Nice work!" notes from the teacher because of the warm fuzzies they gave her when she looked through them later. (Oh. My. Gosh. Reading back over this, I sound like sooooo much more of a nerd in bold black and white than I ever thought I was in Real Life. YIKES. And that's why sometimes writing is not for the faint of heart, y'all...moving on...)

Anyway, even the geekiest little kid must grow up, and learn a cold, hard truth: they just don't hand out lollipops and "Great Job" hand stamps once you hit the academic big time...like Middle or High School. Sure, you still have your grades to encourage you (if you're so inclined...which, yeah, of COURSE I was...) but it's not the same as receiving public recognition for your success. I mean, who doesn't appreciate a pat on the back or some kind words of praise for doing good...stuff?

But when you finish your formal education, and (hopefully) obtain gainful employment somewhere out there in the World of Adults...just fuhgeddabout it. Don't get me wrong--there's the huge perk known as the "paycheck", which should not be overlooked, in terms of its motivational and positive reinforcement value. And yet...scrumptious snacks as a reward? Joyful smiley faces written in colorful magic marker at the top of an assignment to let you know your efforts were pleasing? These are wonderful as well, yeah? But they are also, sadly, a thing of the past, my friends.

And then I started working at my current company, a nonprofit organization dedicated to researching any and all aspects of children and families, and presenting their findings for the purpose of influencing policy and procedures to support successful outcomes for these groups. Wow, that's a mouthful. But the point is, the company promotes an inspiring, supportive environment for its employees...for example, an annual awards ceremony to honor outstanding performance in a variety of categories. Naturally, these are given out for noteworthy accomplishments on the local or even national level.

When I joined our little southeast division, however, I noticed right away that one of my co-workers was displaying an array of (photocopied, but still) Gold Stars on her door (one of which, upon closer inspection, thanked her for leading the search and hiring process for the new Program Assistant...um, yeah...that would be "me"). "Cool!" I thought, immediately followed by a slightly wistful "I wonder if I'll ever get one?" And lo and behold, last Thursday, the director (a very nice lady who works two doors down the hall--I mentioned we were small, right?) stopped by to present me with my very own Gold Star for the way I took care of something that needed to be repaired in our suite recently. Really, the reason is entirely insignificant, what's important is that I GOT MY OWN GOLD STAR, dude!

Yes, I had a brief flashback to my elementary experiences. Uh-huh, I felt a total rush of....nerdy euphoria. She somewhat sheepishly handed it to me and said, "You don't have to hang this up if you don't want to,"--like she was giving me permission to think it was absolutely dorky and there was no way I was ever going to embarrass myself by putting something so silly up at the entrance to my office. Whaaaaat? I didn't give her a chance to get any further, stopping her with a heartfelt, "Are you kidding me? Where's the tape? This baby is going right the heck up on my door this instant! Seriously? Sometimes it really IS all about the little things...

Oh, and you'll recall the co-worker with the stellar collection of paper bling on her door? That same day, she brought in a container full of the most delectable homemade brownies for us all to share. So to sum up: appreciation...sweets...wait a second...AND I'm being paid?  Now, that's what I'm talking about, folks...

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