The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum


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Creating Connections

Staff members share need for less transactional relationships
Amelia Bush
“The best interactions with students are when they are telling me about what they are excited about.” – Nat Gilsdorf

How many names of the faculty and staff at school do you know? Would you feel comfortable going to them with any issues you have? What if those issues are about their jobs? 

But what does it mean to be a member of the staff or faculty at the upper school? Jim Mahoney, English teacher and college counselor, clarifies, “Staff [are] admin[stration], technically. Basically you have a different performance evaluation standard, versus faculty who are being assessed as teachers…it’s also different pay scale and a different calendar.” Sarah Warren, Assistant Director of the Upper School, agrees, adding, “Our building and grounds people are staff, but I think they are catagorized differently than administrative staff is. So, faculty is clearly people whose full time job is teaching students, but staff can subdivide in a couple different ways.”

Nat Gilsdorf and Justin Karels are two staff members whose jobs are all about assisting students, but beyond their work, Gilsdorf says, “We need more of that casual human to human type relationship.”

 Karels’s outlook on how the students interact with staff as a whole is “variable.” Gilsdorf agrees saying, “It would be crass of me to put everybody in one camp. I think there is a part that I don’t like that feels very transactional in terms of that relationship.” On an individual level however, Gilsdorf continues, “Specifically in the role that Justin [Karels] and I are in, most of our interactions with students are ‘you need something from me’ and it’s hard to develop a relationship with somebody. Obviously Justin and I wouldn’t be here if we didn’t like helping people, but I would be lying if I didn’t say there was a part of me that misses the closeness [of relationships].”  Karels agrees saying, “I consider myself more of a background type of dude. It’s not every day where I am in positions where I get to have regular conversations with students, which would be great. It’s amazing when that happens.”

“I’m a cool human being, I like to think anyway, so I can talk about some stuff.”
– Justin Karels (Amelia Bush)

Although part of Karels’ job is to interact with members of the school community, he comments, “I think that a lot of students don’t know that I exist, and that is fine.” Karels continues, “I don’t have many ways to introduce myself in a classroom setting. Because why do you need to know who I am? I am not relevant to whatever you are learning in that classroom.” However, that doesn’t stop the fact that Karels “sometimes [feels] a little bit envious of other staff as they get to have more interactions with students.” He continues, “But it’s not like I need to be social to thrive. I’m a very independent person.” 

Additionally, because laptop problems can be embarrassing, students can be nervous to ask for help, especially because most havn’t talked to Karels before. To this, Karels says, “I’m not going to judge you. I don’t care. These things are covered.” He adds, “I’m a cool human being, I like to think anyway, so I can talk about some stuff. I have some stories. I’m not just this technical dude. The thing that I don’t want to perpetuate is that typical IT guy. Because they suck. I don’t like those guys. They don’t know how to talk to people, they’re not nice […] they don’t look approachable.” 

Brett Weber, the head of Blake’s Taher staff, shares, “The student body as a whole is very kind and thankful and lots of pleases and thank you’s and lots of ‘oh man that was great’ and we love hearing that kind of stuff and it helps long weeks be rewarding.” However, Weber acknowledges there can be some room for improvement in regards to respect. “I would say [the student environment], for the majority [of the time,] is pretty respectful. The negatives I’ve seen are just a little bit of messiness to be honest with you,” he says. “We have to pick up a lot of plates and cups and you know disposable paper products, which for me is okay, but it’s a little disheartening for my team because they work really hard, I work hard, we work hard as a unit to provide lunch. We understand that you’re paying for it, it’s based on your tuition, but it doesn’t mean you can’t pick up after yourself,” he continues.

“I’d love it if students want to come and chat. Food is my life and I’m always happy to talk about it.”
– Chef Brett Weber (Mackenzie Higgins)

Similarly, Gilsdorf’s interactions with student’s are good, but he has noticed trends with how the student’s interact with each other. Gilsdorf comments “I worry that students aren’t seeing each other as human or seeing teachers as human.” He adds, “We need to focus less on excellence and more on ‘the school of kindness.’” The solution? “We need more time to just see each other as humans,” says Gilsdorf. 

Above all else, Karels cares about assisting students with their learning and wants them to succeed. He says, “At the end of the day, if you have a device that you can use for your education, and to help assist in that education, I want to make sure it works.” However, Karels emphasizes that, “I wear my heavy metal shirts and I try not to be [un]approachable but if there are times where I have looked unapproachable, don’t let that be a deterrent. I’m not going to be a jerk.” Gilsdorf adds that “the best interactions with students are when they are telling me about what they are excited about… the same goes both ways.” 

Similarly, if you have questions about food or you just want to talk, Weber says, “I’m open to anyone talking, whatever they want to know. If it’s like what’s in the food or if they want to talk about food or if they had a negative experience and they want to share it with me, my door is open to those sorts of things.” He continues saying, “I’d love it if students want to come and chat. Food is my life… I don’t know everything but I know a little bit and I’m always happy to talk about it.”

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About the Contributors
Amelia Bush
Amelia Bush, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Hi everyone! My name is Amelia and I am a senior and a Co-Editor-in-Chief. This year I am editing the food and sports pages. My favorite part of Spectrum is the people, I love the fun supportive energy that it brings. I joined Spectrum freshman year as a writer and became an editor in my sophomore year.
Mackenzie Higgins
Mackenzie Higgins, Editor Emerita
Hi, my name is Mackenzie and I am a senior this year! I have been writing for Spectrum since my freshman year and last semester, I was a Co-Editor-in-Chief along with the Creative Director and the Front Editor. This semester, I'm helping out with the features page. My favorite part of Spectrum is connecting with the school community and working with others in the newsroom. Outside of Spectrum and school, you can find me skiing, watching Criminal Minds, or drinking cold brew.

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