It was hard to get Joni to speak directly to the camera. Her usually animated face became frozen when Tom trained his lens on her. But we needed her to repeat what she had said so off-handedly a moment before.
When we weren’t filming at Mission Hill, we often plopped down in the office. The hub of the school, it was rarely without a story going on that we might follow. It was also the spot to watch Ayla and Joni in action. Ayla’s role was evident, but Joni’s became clearer to us as the year progressed. With her winning smile, and affirming acceptance that everyone makes mistakes, she made a space for children in distress that allowed them dignity, even though in many cases they had not just come to the office of their own accord, but been asked to leave a classroom after causing a disruption.
“We don’t always know what’s going on at home with some of these kids. We don’t know what they’ve been through.” Joni says to us, then blushes when we say we want to film her saying that. She was assigned to Mission Hill and took a while to figure the place out, but like so many of the adjunct staff we filmed for chapter 7, the spirit of collaboration and the equal treatment that all receive transformed her from the simple job title of secretary, to a valued team member.