Weeks ago, I patiently stood in front of a Zaxby’s counter, while a manager walked a very new, very timid employee through her first transaction. I started thinking about my first customer service job and how the progress one makes in these jobs isn’t too different from teaching. There are just a few steps:
1. “Sorry, I’m New”
I’m useless. I can’t work a register. The simplest questions baffle me. I’m essentially a burden on both the customers and your employer. My first day at Blockbuster Video, I could only stock the shelves with movies, and even that took me too long.
2. Rising Confidence
So long as nothing weird comes up, I’m good. I can remember renting movies to customers. As long as they had their cards, had no dispute with their late fees, and didn’t have a coupon, we were in business.
3. Everybody’s Stupid but Me
This is where things get hairy. I learned to deal with any situation but not without some sort of attitude. Seasoned customer service people know their business, but it makes them cocky and annoying. In the feudal kingdom of Blockbuster Video, they are lords, and customers are the dirty, ungrateful serfs.
Unforunately, this is where a lot of customer service dudes stay. They get overly stressed and narcissistic about their menial job. I don’t think it’s an intentional superiority complex–just an inability to get all Atticus Finch-y and see the other side of the equation.
I’d like to think, by the end of my days in customer service, I matured to higher understanding of my role. I could work swiftly without getting mad at an unprepared customer. I could take a breath when someone protested a late fee. In short, I could do my job well.
I’m making similar progress as a teacher. Two years ago, I was back at step one: an idiot without a clue, a burden to my students and administrators. As I grow and find my way, I’m starting to see the process, handling more and more difficult taks without needing help.
The tricky area, of course, is that third step. Gaining confidence also means recognizing the multiple ways that others (coworkers and students) are holding you back. It leads to resentment, and I think it’s where a lot of teachers quit on us. I’m certainly starting to feel the frustrations caused by:
-teaching students way behind grade level
-an often infuriating beauracracy
-infectious complaining of fellow teachers
The trick might be to take a deep breath and focus on that next step of peace and acceptance. I can keep working hard to improve the things I can and make peace with the things that aren’t going away. Acting like a snarky video store nerd isn’t going to solve anything. It never did.