When traveling, I usually stop at McDonalds for breakfast. There’s one around every corner, it’s cheap, and I know exactly what to expect. One morning as I was ordering, the voice in the speaker suddenly cut me off before I had a chance to tell him how I wanted my coffee. I had only been able to get out, “Large coffee with 4 creams and”…when he suddenly interrupted, “You’ll probably want 4 sugars too.”
I stared dumbfounded at the speaker.
I was going to say 2 sugars, but that was a minor detail. More importantly, the kid had violated an unspoken drive thru tradition by inserting extra words into a well-established ritual.
“Welcome to McDonalds…is the order on your screen correct…please pay at the first window…”
Certainly not, “You’ll probably want 4 sugars.” And while this comment was completely logical—I had ordered 4 creams so 4 sugars made sense—the kid did something that no one else at McDonalds has ever done. He anticipated my needs and that small gesture threw me for a loop.
After my initial surprise, I finished my order and pulled up to get my food. When I drove off, I couldn’t help but shake my head that some kid at McDonalds had just taught me a valuable lesson.
Just because something is customary, efficient, and well executed doesn’t mean it’s the best way.
Especially not if that way is highly impersonal. By interjecting those few extra personal words into a very structured practice, the kid completely changed my experience and illustrated, in a small way, that I was no longer just another customer inside the procedure but the reason for the procedures.
I’m not saying that we should start carrying on conversations at the drive thru; but we should take extra care to ensure that our schools do not resemble a drive thru. Morning arrival, class change, lunch, classroom instruction, dismissal—the entire school day—has to be highly efficient and well executed, but we can’t allow what we do really well to become (or remain) cold and distant.
We’re getting ready to start a new school year again, but don’t look at it that way. Instead, think of it as another chance to start anew—another chance to make a difference. If we slide into the same routine as last year, even if it was efficient and well executed, but lacks personal care and attention, we’ve missed a golden opportunity as well as the purpose for our passion.
This year, pledge to not only change for the better but to also enhance what you’re doing well. When you see your kids (parents and teachers included) go out of your way to call out their names, ask pointed and specific questions that matter to that person, and anticipate their needs!
Simply add a few extra personal words to remind them that they are so much more than a routine or a procedure, but that they are a person who truly matters to you.