At Alma, our work is often complex and highly interpersonal. It’s also creative and performative. We must make sure we are creating an ecosystem in which creative people can thrive while doing highly complex, interpersonal and performative work. Because when our teachers thrive, our scholars thrive. It’s this notion that leads us to our Crew Code – a set of guiding principles focusing on our staff’s behaviors and beliefs that contribute to the culture at Alma del Mar.
Below is one staff member’s take on one of our guiding principles: Crew.
Hi, everyone. My name is Nurse Tara. And let me start by pointing out how impressive that my mom knew I was going to become a nurse and named me Nurse Tara. I’m introducing myself more out of a residual habit of public speaking etiquette and less out of the need to actually do so because you all know me. And, beautifully, I know you as well.
This? This familiarity? This is an absolute revelation to me. In my previous work for another school system, I spent approximately 10 months working with a group of teachers and other staff members and by the end of my year there I can say I knew probably 5 staff members by name. I did my job, I served my students. I did my paperwork and doled out band-aids and ice packs and sage advice. I made my same corny jokes, and used my same skill set. But nothing about that job felt the same as this career that I have at Alma. I felt isolated. In a building full of instructional staff I felt “other.” I felt, every single day on the short ride to work that I would rather be just about anywhere else. So, what makes the difference?
Right from the start, I had the opportunity to experience Alma culture during my first Alma Institute in August. On my very first day I camped out in my office and calmly assessed (panic face) the state of the records, supplies, all that good stuff. And periodically throughout the day teachers and admin staff popped in to say hey and make me feel welcome. “What is this?” I wondered to myself. Day two I participated in an event in which we all received awards in a mock town hall. My award was in the area of “Crew.” And that was the answer to both of the questions I’d asked myself. What makes the difference? What is this? Crew.
Well sure, yea. Crew. Awesome. But what is “Crew” and what does it really mean? I started to see examples along the way as I started putting roots down. Cake in the break room with a little note welcoming anyone to grab a piece. Birthday songs at morning huddle with much more enthusiasm that most groups of adults can muster before 8 am. Invitations to join colleagues for a drink. A beach PD day with games and smiles and for me, not one awkward moment of feeling like an out of place middle schooler holding a lunch tray and asking for permission to sit at the cool kids’ table.
So, by the start of September I knew what crew was, but it wasn’t until mid-November that I really started to understand what crew meant. I had to have emergency surgery for my inflamed and infected gallbladder. Don’t worry, we have since parted ways and are no longer on speaking terms. I texted Marko while hopped up on morphine, so worried that I was going to be in trouble for having to call out for so many days on zero notice. Instead of a reprimand, I was met with reassurance and encouragement. Within a few days the eternally sunny Jess Summers had signed me up for a meal train. That’s when it happened.
Crew flooded into my home and into my fridge in the form of homemade soups, com bread, roasted pepitas, hot dish, Chinese food, baked French toast, tacos, mac and cheese, cookies, brownies. You name it and there is was on my doorstep in the arms of a colleague who asked how I was doing and if I needed anything. Crew filled up my inbox with emails and texts to let me know that I was missed and that all our kiddos were safe and healthy.
Crew was knowing that I mattered, and that I was supported by the people who I worked with, even when we weren’t at work. At the risk of Trademark infringement, I’ll even say Ohana means family and so does crew.