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    Working at a People-centric School


    24 Oct, 2023

    18 : 31

    In this era, when notions of "errand runner" and "objectification" dominate workplace discussions, the strong sense of belonging among these veteran staff members is remarkable.


    This sense of belonging continues at YCYW campuses today. In late September, we interviewed two dedicated YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang staff members, who have been part of the Tongxiang community since the school's founding. Although they have not been responsible for frontline teaching, their deep commitment has enabled them to discover their own distinct roles and purpose within the education industry.

    • Gina Qi

      Before joining YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang's Support and Maintenance Division in 2018, I held a position in integrated facility management at a French-owned property-management company in Taizhou, Jiangsu Province. I was responsible for caterings services for 12 public schools at that time, and had much contact with schools. In 2018, I joined YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang and started an exciting new experience.


      I clearly remember that during the interview, the interviewer spent nearly two hours telling me that "the most important thing in the Support and Maintenance Division is to provide quality service." He noted that I would likely have my own managerial style because I had previously led my own team. He explained that working in a school would mean interacting with students, teachers, and the parents of student, and that there are subtle differences that require special attention and care.


      To be honest, I didn't fully understand what the interviewer meant back then, but its significance has become increasingly clear over the years. When I was dealing with customers in the past, there were always very clear boundaries, and the quality of my service was often evaluated on the basis of price competitiveness. But now, we are interacting with cute, innocent students. Can this type of service be evaluated solely by price? The target group has changed, and so has my entire mindset about my service.


      On campus, there are many details that require careful examination and analysis. This is very different from previous jobs where there were very clear work standards. For example, during the COVID pandemic in the last few years, we had to consider the children's sensitivities and tolerance to the disinfectants we used for disinfecting the school. We had to open the windows for proper ventilation within the school. Especially in the winter, we needed to consider factors such as how long to keep the windows open, what temperature to set the air conditioning, and the comfort of the students inside the rooms.


      The school cafeteria is another good example. All the chefs have their own cooking habits and regional characteristics, but they have to make their cooking more in tune with the children's tastes and spend time working on the children's favourite dishes.


      At YCYW, we regard everyone as an educator—as an integral part of the school community. Therefore, teaching and non-teaching staff must understand each other.

      In my previous job, I operated as a separate entity, and had the mentality of specialising in meal preparation. But here, I have to integrate the personal habits of many students and teachers, as well as different regional habits, and the needs of various age groups. Here, I see myself as both a school employee and an external service provider. I understand both the requirements of Party A and the perspectives of Party B. I feel as though I have assumed a multi-faceted role.

      Although Tongxiang is not a first-tier city, I can sense YCYW's rich cultural heritage in the students and the founding principles of Hau Cheung Po Po. 


      While the school's intrinsic mission is to provide excellent education, our own mission is to provide excellent service and to use that service as a model to inspire our students.

      In 2022, one of our Chinese-language teachers organised a classroom activity in which primary and secondary school students interviewed the operations staff. The questions posed by the children revealed that they regard us as more than just workers. The students mentioned their awareness of our work schedules, observed us in action, and acknowledged our hard work. Although it was just an interview, I felt a heart-warming appreciation when I heard their comments.


      The children noticed our dedication. I feel this is as a kind of campus integration. In fact, I'd like to say to the students: we're always here, and we're happy to be by your side every day.

      During the pandemic lockdown in Shanghai last year, the Support and Maintenance Division in Shanghai tried every possible means to obtain essential supplies. They worked tirelessly overnight to ensure that groceries were delivered to the doorsteps of staff members and to the campus. What was truly remarkable was, that even in such difficult circumstances, they took into account the life styles of our expatriate colleagues. The supplies included items like coffee beans, pasta, and butter. This was a thoughtful gesture during those trying times.


      It is undoubtedly challenging to be support staff. I have been doing this for more than five years, not just because it's challenging, but I feel deeply connected to it. When I saw how humane the organisation was during the pandemic, I knew that the organisation would never abandon its staff, and that support and care would always be there.


      In 2019, YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang hosted the YCYW Seeds of Hope Concert. Gina and her team coordinated everything from the accommodation and transportation arrangements for all participants to the placement of cups at the venue. She clearly remembers that at the end of the day, her daily step count exceeded 30,000 steps.


      My child was born this year and is now six months old. During my maternity leave, I appreciated the warmth and support of my colleagues and the school leadership team.


      In fact, what people seek in a workplace is a sense of belonging and dependability. When this sense has been established, you will gradually perceive the workplace as your own. So now I feel a sense of ownership at work. I will keep leading my team forward, with unlimited service. I believe that the future of YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang will be even more exciting.


    • When seeing a child's innocent look, the service mentality undergoes a transformation - Gina Qi

    • Tim Shan

      I joined the Information Technology (IT) team of Yew Wah Shanghai Gubei in 2011. In 2017, when YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang was still under construction, the school needed staff to supervise the construction of weak current system. Because Tongxiang is close to my hometown, I applied for the position. When I started, the school was still a construction site.


      While builders typically focus on implementing their designs based on their expertise, the IT Division faces the unique challenge of evaluating whether these designs align with the school's specific requirements, and we offer guidance accordingly. From the design blueprints to the completion of the school, my affection for the school has grown because I had the opportunity actively to contribute to its construction.


      In the photo above, taken in 2017, Tim stands in front of the under-construction YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang campus. The photo below shows the campus today.


      The IT team at YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang now has three members. In addition to the daily operation and maintenance of the school's IT infrastructure, we must meet the demands in this era of rapid developments in science and technology. Modern teaching has evolved significantly. This requires us to engage actively in the school's digital transformation efforts, including the transition to electronic and paperless office solutions and the Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Because of the rapid advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), we are also exploring the integration of AI into teaching methods.


      In the past, traditional teaching methods relied on a blackboard and chalk. Educational technology now involves a range of smart facilities and other hardware, including electronic whiteboards, interactive large screens, projectors, sound systems. We also play a critical role in selecting the most suitable teaching software to support our educators.


      Before joining YCYW, I did IT-related work for several companies. I felt working at a school would be more comfortable. Of course, the direction of the work is the same: providing high-quality service. But working in a school has another dimension. Every effort we make is centred around the well-being and education of the children.


      Working in the education industry, I am extremely happy to experience real education at YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang. One striking example is the dedication of our teachers, who arrange tutoring during the summer break for students in need and dedicate their lives to the students. The teachers truly embody the spirit of "enlightening oneself and others," thus creating an ideal educational environment.


      Our school's Support and Maintenance Division consistently goes above and beyond, thinking about the needs of teachers and students and swiftly addressing their urgent concerns. This culture extends to both our teaching and non-teaching staff, who prioritise the well-being and development of the children, reflecting a shared child-centred commitment.


      When my son was born in 2017, I happened to be on a business trip with the school's Marketing and Admissions Division in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. This connection also began my children’s educational journey at Yew Wah. I now have two children: my 6-year-old son, who is in Year 1, and my 4-year-old daughter. Both are students at YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang. As a parent, my primary concern is whether my children are happy. I have noticed that they genuinely enjoy being at school, thanks to the dedication of their responsible teachers.


      When my son first started school, he was quite shy and reluctant to engage with others. However, in the school's nurturing environment, he changed a lot and has become a confident, expressive, and cheerful young student. He also often teaches his younger sister. I feel confident that I can entrust my children to the school. Until now, we have kept in close touch with the home-school group when my son was in K5. We share our learning and lives with each other.


      I have witnessed the development of YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang from a construction site to its current state. If asked where my strong sense of belonging comes from, I would mainly attribute it to how the school values each employee. Each year, the school's leadership team gives high praise to our work. Here at YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang, we pay attention not only to the daily operations of the team, but also the personal growth of each team member.

    • At this school, we see genuine education in action - Tim Shan