Apparently, I'm a breath of fresh air

Or so said one of our new teachers after a faculty meeting. She joins us from a school where the network admin is remarkably unpleasant and does his level best to avoid interacting with his users.

Or so said one of our new teachers after a faculty meeting. She joins us from a school where the network admin is remarkably unpleasant and does his level best to avoid interacting with his users. Give him a database to manage, servers to upgrade, or PCs to repair in the privacy of his office, and he's quite skilled (I've attended user group meetings with him - he's actually pretty sharp). However, according to this new teacher (to whom I am a breath of fresh air), his skill levels drop off drastically when he is confronted by users issues, concerns, complaints, or friendly greetings in the hall.

I know that the first couple days of school are unpleasant at best for most of us IT folks. If you're lucky enough to have a few staff to work with you (and get paid for it) over the summer, then these days may not be too bad. However, for those of us who fly solo, have teaching duties, crappy funding, or other barriers that stand in the way of utter preparedness, the return of teachers to the school can be the professional equivalent of bamboo shoots being driven beneath your fingernails.

However, I used to go to work with my mom all the time when I was a kid. She ran a coffee and tea shop that gained a degree of success through interesting products and friendly faces. I watched my mom fire employees on the spot for failing to treat customers with the utmost respect, no matter how obnoxious they were. She fired people for the kind of customer service that is par for the course at virtually every mall in America today. She wasn't mean-spirited either; she didn't just sack people for the fun of it. She simply held to a very high standard of customer service.

Which leads me to my point. Not every IT guy (or gal) needs to be the life of the party and model extrovert. That's not going to happen. We just aren't like that. I've thought of submitting myself to Ripley's Believe It or Not as the rare extroverted geek. Yet the teachers who bug us about every last, seemingly petty, ridiculous detail of their technological existence are our customers. As my mom used to tell me, the customer is always right, even if they're completely wrong. It's our job to set them right in a way that builds confidence, credibility, and trust.

There is no getting around it, we're here to help these people, no matter how much we may want to tattoo "RTFM" on our foreheads as we jet from one brushfire to the next. Sure, we should be working towards building an educated and self-sufficient group of users who integrate technology well into the classroom. Until that happens, though, be a breath of fresh air and keep smiling. Only 180 days to go.