The Student News Site of Taipei American School




Support Staff: TAS’s Unsung Heroes


Our TAS support staff, such as the guards and janitors, have a special perspective on the blend of Eastern and Western cultures that is TAS. Although they spend their working day in the TAS bubble and watch us for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, they are undeniably local Taiwanese at heart. They observe us constantly, and from their unique point of view, they have accumulated a wealth of invaluable advice for us.

When our own students are asked to describe the TAS student body, words that pop up include “Asian” and “test-taking machines”, but also “rich” and disturbingly, “spoiled”. However, Ming-Der Huang, TAS Security Supervisor, seems to disagree with this stereotype. “TAS students are more joyful, but also more disciplined than local students.” he said. This was more than a little surprising, given that neat, saluting lines of students with the same haircut is one of the first images that pops to mind when one hears “local school” and one of the last when one hears “TAS”. When asked to elaborate on this unexpected statement, though, Mr. Huang explained that TAS discipline is “different from military discipline; [we] seem to understand the difference between right and wrong, and respect authority more.” His words must be music to the ears of Dr. Long, Dr. Hartzell, and TAS’s character educators.  

While TAS students often underestimate the effect that their actions have on others, Mr. Huang shows the influence of his six years here, as he repeatedly replies in excellent English even when asked questions in Mandarin. TAS students continue to impact Mr. Huang and his fellow guards throughout the school day; he gets to school early to greet students as they arrive, and says with a smile that “when TAS students say hi to me at the front gate, that makes me feel very happy to do my job.”

Our hardworking custodians, too, love the appreciation of students. One anonymous janitor noted how TAS students often say “??” to her as she goes through the workday. As I struggled to translate her Chinese description of how it felt to be thanked by the students, her colleague standing by rescued me, proudly spelling out “W-A-R-M!” Another custodian agreed wholeheartedly, saying in English “it…makes us feel very sweet-heart.” A simple word of thanks to those who gives us our clean environment takes only a moment and often seems insignificant, but as these custodians can confirm, that moment of gratitude is the best part of their workday.

On the other hand, while students’ thanks make the janitors’ hard work much easier, there are some student actions that make their lives much harder. One experienced custodian recounted for me the story of a senior prank some years ago, when the graduating class enlisted a group of the most ripped, gym-rat seniors to steal the Thinker statue from the lobby and drag it right smack into the middle of D-Block.  Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the seniors found themselves unable to lift the statue. So they just left it there. And the Thinker stayed in D-Block until that night, the aging custodians came and lugged the hefty Thinker back. In this case and many others, our support staff put in an immense amount of work to ensure our comfort and convenience. In return, we must ease their workload by taking responsibility for our actions and cleaning up after ourselves, as we pledge to in the Honor Code, which we all sign.

Finally, I asked Mr. Huang to leave us with a life lesson, some words of wisdom. He thought for a while, and then answered slowly: “At TAS, every student is innocent and naïve compared to the outside world…it’s not bad to be innocent, but on the outside you must be careful who you trust.”

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