Worker Bee

November 18, 2011

This surprised me at first. I coach and train people with themes like “don’t follow the herd” and “free yourself from the hive mind.” I mainly work with people who are leaders or are becoming leaders, stepping up to take charge so they can bring their ideas to life. Adaptable, flexible, and creative are abilities I want to keep improving in myself and help other people develop and improve.

So when I first realized I was a worker bee, and I liked it, I was surprised.

This year is my third year on the board of directors of a non-profit agency in my area, and my fifth volunteering as a committee member. As this commitment started winding down (I’m letting it wind down because it’s far enough away that meeting for an hour and a half takes up to four hours of my time with travel) I looked for a different volunteer opportunity.

My younger son started middle school this year so I decided to look for an opportunity there. It’s also his first year in public school, after spending his elementary years in a wonderful Montessori school. It’s a huge adjustment for him. The public school structure and format are completely new to him, the school is enormous compared to his two-room elementary, and, well, it’s middle school.

It’s a big adjustment for me, because I knew the administrator and the business manager and my son’s teacher very well. The Montessori cycle keeps a child in the same class for three years, and with some changes as the school downsized my son had additional years with one teacher.

I also knew two of the teachers in the youngest classroom because they had worked for us at the preschool my family owned. The Spanish teacher, who was also the art teacher, became a good friend, as well. They are like extended family. No, forget that! They are like the extended family I wish I had. They are special people who have been a huge part of my son’s early life and left an impact on both our lives. Heck, a lot of them are even friends with my mother since she volunteered and substituted at the Montessori school.

At the Montessori school I volunteered with “student store,” as I recount in Demystifying Marketing. I went on field trips. I even helped teach creative writing for a few months one year.

So when my son left his second home, the wonderful Montessori school, and headed off to the gargantuan new school in the brand new building with six hundred other students, we both lost an important part of our lives. I wanted to have some kind of connection to his new school, even though it couldn’t possibly be the same. And I was looking for a volunteer opportunity with little driving involved.

When the volunteer opportunities were listed “library” seemed like a manageable commitment so I checked it. At the orientation I signed up for a couple of shifts to give it a go.

I found out I like it. I can choose to volunteer once a week to once a month. I can even take a month off if I need to. I go in for two hours and fifteen minutes, and the total drive time round trip is twenty minutes or less. It’s a new library in a new building so sometimes I help organize shelves. Sometimes I help label shelves. Sometimes I put returned books back on the shelves, and sometimes I put the books back in the correct order.

I also laminate and cut out laminated pieces. Yes, they trust me with the machine with the heating coil and the heavy rollers!

Sometimes I check out books when students come to the library, and sometimes I check books in.

None of this is very difficult. Most of it takes little thought. I do a simple organizing task or laminate and cut out a stack of printed pieces. I don’t have to figure out much. I don’t have to solve challenging problems.

And I like it!

For the two hours and fifteen minutes, I have a list of things to do. By the time I leave, either I have finished a project or two, or completed one section of a larger project. The work is mainly about putting things in order. Books go in order on the shelves, labels are printed to direct people to the right shelf, cards for math class are covered in hot plastic and trimmed to be useful materials. I don’t have to figure out what to do or how to do it. I just follow a list.

I definitely wouldn’t want to do that every day. I would go nuts if most of my work were this way. But for a couple of hours two or three times a month, it’s a peaceful respite. I think it might be similar to walking a meditative labyrinth.

At the end of my time a task is done, order is restored in one corner of the universe, and entropy is resisted once again.

And I leave refreshed and ready to tackle some prickly challenges with my adaptability, flexibility, and creativity, in true Trailblazer style.


One Response to “Worker Bee”

  1. The Great Library Purge of 2013 : on February 8th, 2013 7:30 pm

    […] decided to volunteer in the library at his middle school a couple of times per month. It takes me about the same time as the twice monthly agency meetings […]

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