So today, I’m innocently sorting boxes of books in my new classroom (and examining Mason’s head because he had been using a student desk as a jungle gym and fallen off) when one of the custodians came running into my room yelling, “You can’t just walk anywhere! There was wet wax on the floor! You teachers! I could block off hallways and you’d still walk through them!” I thought he was joking at first, but then I realized he was serious.
After apologizing profusely, I explained that one of the other custodians had directed me down the newly waxed hallway because, I was told, the more direct route to my classroom was currently being waxed. I explained that of course, if the hallway had been blocked off and I hadn’t been DIRECTED to go that way, I would not have walked down it. The custodian calmed down, saying it was okay because I had been told to go that way and he apologized for yelling at me. I apologized again, hurriedly grabbed Mason and his million toys (which never got played with anyway), and left so he could fix the wax and finish the part outside my room. I’ll bake him some cookies and all (hopefully) will be forgiven.
So, new teachers or ones moving to new schools, here are a few things you should know about custodians. This is not meant to insult or degrade those people who are custodial engineers; rather, this is to inform those of us who work with you how to work symbiotically.
1) Get to know your custodians in your school BEFORE you need something. Like the secretaries, custodians are valuable allies to have in a school.
2) Custodians are extremely important people in a school. They do a lot more for you than you probably realize: clean up vomit, empty garbage cans, fix pencil sharpeners, wax floors, clean lockers, etc.
3) There are many (avoidable) ways to make a custodian angry: step on newly waxed floors, drag desks across floors and scrape wax, fail to at least complete a cursory sweep after a messy art project, fail to put up chairs (if applicable). ASK for help in a timely manner and be courteous!
4) Always double check before you change something or do something to your classroom. It’s much easier to avoid a big mistake (like ripping off paint with your posters or walking on wet wax) than to clean up the pieces (literally or figuratively).
So that is my musing on school custodians.