A 24 Hour Catalog: The Unseen Side of Keystone
The winter morning sky is still dim, the mist still covers the ground. Keystone Academy is already awake long before everyone starts running around.
Very early in the morning, canteen lights are turned on. Just outside the campus, the first school bus pulls into an empty, silent street. Meanwhile, security guards replace colleagues on the night shift.
In between our action-packed and uneventful hours, there are people who weave together seemingly insignificant moments of a day at Keystone. We turn our focus on the unsung Keystone employees who keep the campus running, 24 hours a day. This is the unseen side of Keystone, day in and day out.
Secondary School canteen
Lights are on in the canteen’s meal preparation area. Cooks and kitchen staff are preparing breakfast for residential students and teachers. What’s on the menu today? Fried eggs, yóutiáo (deep-fried dough sticks), noodles, and dumplings—a hearty breakfast reminiscent of homecooked meals for the cold northern winter. Full tummy, warm heart.
School bus stops
The school bus driver and attendant are on the way to the next stop to pick up day students. This morning’s drizzle further dropped the temperature and dampened the ground, changing each scenery at bus stops. However, everything goes back as usual when the familiar figures of children appear.
Keystone South Gate
Guardians and vehicles taking children to school are now arriving at the South Gate. Six security guards are guiding the traffic and maintaining social distancing outside the school gate. It’s almost freezing, but the guards are beaded with sweat!
Meanwhile, Head of School Malcolm McKenzie and school administrators are greeting students at the gate. Their presence sets students’ minds at ease every morning, be it sunny, windy, rainy—or today, chilly!
Security Control room
The security guards in the CCTV control room are monitoring the campus in real time. They also check data from infrared body temperature scanners at the academic building entrances. So far, no one’s feverish. But guards see energetic bodies and warm smiles from students and teachers alike.
Primary School building entrance
At the Primary School building entrance, teachers open the doors and welcome students with a cheerful “Good morning!” A brand-new day has just begun, so let’s all have fun!
Primary School classrooms
The action in the academic building hallways now slows down. Teachers start the class as scheduled. Teaching assistants are supporting students. Their work may seem trivial and uncomplicated, but no, it is actually profound and significant.
Center for Student Development suite
While students are now taking their morning break, Center for Student Development (CSD) counselors remain busy this time. Not only do CSD staff render academic support, they are also a shoulder to lean on and a voice that provides comfort.
Copy Center room
Meanwhile, Copy Center workers have been occupied this morning, helping faculty members and non-teaching staff print documents needed for teaching or administrative work. The smell of ink and paper is all too familiar to the Copy Center workers.
Secondary School building
This maintenance worker is tightening a loose screw at the door frame. He has already lost count of how many screws he has bolted, lights installed, and tables and chairs fixed.
Electricians are monitoring the temperature in the equipment room and recording meter data. Thanks to them, students study in well-lit classrooms and staff work in cozy office spaces. In short, we do not freeze during this cold day!
Secondary School canteen
It’s lunch time! Students line up to get their meals. Over and over again, waitresses ask each student what they like to eat. Cleaning staff, meanwhile, make sure the tables are wiped clean for new diners. In the food recycling area, kitchen staff sort out and wash every single food tray from the conveyor belt.
Teachers are still on duty in the canteen during mealtime. Many students turn to them for help, while others join their teachers for chats over lunch. Teachers also remind lower grade students not to waste food and keep their tables tidy.
While most of the students are eating, some teachers on duty are in the playground to watch over Primary School students who are running and playing tirelessly. Those beaming faces are irresistible, filling the grounds—and teachers—with a youthful aura.
Throughout the campus
Workers from the Building and Facilities Department are carrying sofas and plants for this afternoon’s event. The movers—and their pushcarts too—are always ready for the ingress and egress of school events, as well as delivery of items to classrooms or offices. They are probably the people who, besides security guards, leave the largest number of footprints in every corner of the campus.
Mailroom clerks are sorting out deliveries and packages, with each recipient’s name being written neatly on a whiteboard for easy pick-up. Clerks personally deliver important documents to offices, teachers, or staff.
High School Library
Our librarians are categorizing books and putting them back on shelves. In our librarians’ eyes, books are not just resources but a pair of wings—some consider them a flying carpet—that take students on a journey without even leaving the campus.
Keystone Health Center
School nurses are checking the eyesight of students. Amid demanding schedules, students and staff sometimes feel under the weather. Our Keystone Health Center staff come to the rescue at times like this.
The Campus Shop and Uniform Store is just a few steps from the Health Center. Crowds are rarely seen there during school hours. After class, however, children have their happy moments at the shop when they get a packet of their favorite snack.
Student Life Center
Staff in the Student Life Center are reviewing documents and issuing exit slips for students who need to leave the campus. On weekdays, they help student boarders manage their academic and co-curricular tasks and other daily matters.
Keystone South Gate
Parents have arrived at the South Gate to pick up their children. Here comes the busiest time of the day for security guards: direct the traffic, manage the crowd; assist parents, guide students.
Over a campus lawn near the East Gate, janitors are clearing up dry autumn leaves, putting those into trash bags. They ready clean paths as we usher in the winter.
Shuttle bus stops
School buses are about to depart to take students safely home. They wait for students, do a head count, and set off. The bus assistant reminds students to buckle up, while the driver remains focused and careful. Safety comes first, even though they go on familiar routes.
The academic buildings are now silent yet full of action. Cleaning staff tidy up public areas and classrooms, readying them for another day of motion.
Keystone Performing Arts Center
A student performance happens tonight at the Keystone Performing Arts Center (PAC). Light and sound technicians in the control room are tuning up equipment. Thanks to their efforts behind the scenes, the PAC stage is always filled with glitz and glamor.
Security guards begin patrolling the academic buildings, dormitories, and other campus facilities. They take shifts every two hours. The guards collect stationery, clothes, and other belongings left behind by students and bring them to the Lost and Found Cabinet.
Over in the residential buildings, boarders begin their evening self-study hours. Teachers and residential staff who serve as dorm parents are on the night shift, doing a head count, inspecting rooms, and providing a listening ear to students. They also put away computers and mobile phones to wind students down after a long day of studying. At 10pm, dorm parents return to their rooms.
Keystone East Gate
Nightshift security guards at the school gate are the first to feel frigid winter nights—and also the first ones to “get used” to it.
East Gate security room
By this time, roads outside the campus are clear. Yet, the guardhouse remains lit. For guards on the night shift, their day has just started. On a freezing night like this, the guardhouse is like a navigation light that guides Keystone as it sails overnight.
In the window, the moon is hanging over the earth,
meaningless but full of messages.
It’s dead, it’s always been dead,
but it pretends to be something else,
burning like a star, and convincingly, so that you feel sometimes
it could actually make something grow on earth.
If there’s an image of the soul, I think that’s what it is.
I move through the dark as though it were natural to me,
as though I were already a factor in it.
Tranquil and still, the day dawns.
-- From Louise Glück’s “A Village Life” in Poems 1962-2012
Tomorrow comes to us in the same regular yet unnoticeable ways. Nothing in our life is taken for granted, nor should it be. Isn’t it moving that we see the stars and the moon outside our windows, or feel the earth illuminated by sunlight? It is these mundane moments in life that seem so simple yet always hard to grasp.
Many of us have become so accustomed to the comforts of modernity and meritocratic society that we praise only those people who have “done well”—the rich, the powerful, the renowned. But this year’s unfortunate public health circumstances have put the spotlight on the essential workers who keep communities running, despite themselves being usually on the fringes of society. And so, this year fortunately also allows us to move away from “doing well” to a deeper appreciation of “doing good.”
Last week Malcolm McKenzie referenced the writing and thinking of the Harvard Professor, Michael Sandel. Sandel is eloquent about ‘the dignity of work’ and ‘the common good’. In a recent piece published in The Atlantic, Sandel wrote this:
“We cannot determine what counts as a contribution worth affirming without deliberating about the purposes and ends of our common life. And we cannot deliberate about common purposes and ends without seeing ourselves as members of a community to which we are indebted. This sense of indebtedness would enable us to say ‘We are all in this together’—not as a ritual incantation in times of crisis but as a principle that informs our everyday lives.”
We thank and appreciate everyone who works at Keystone, especially those who are so often ‘behind the scenes’.
A Bonus Scene
Special thanks to our campus photographer, Liu Zheng, who worked tirelessly from dawn to dusk to capture these ordinary but touching moments.