Saturday, September 10, 2005

Custodial 101

By day I teach. I am a para educator in a classroom of children who have learning disabilities, meaning they are bright, lovely people who happen to learn differently from the rest of us. It is a job that I enjoy, but it can be taxing, mentally and emotionally.

Yesterday was one of those days where my mind had been all kinds of places; where I felt I had traveled all over the world without leaving the building. I was relieved when 3:30 came.

Enter the custodian's cart. In order to supplement my teaching wages, I have signed on to substitute when one of our custodian's is gone. I was glad to begin a new shift in my day and have some quiet time, letting my body take over from the exercise of my mind.

I am responsible for cleaning 7 classrooms as well as the Band room and Library: sweeping, cleaning countertops, dry erase boards, mopping and emptying trash. It was a task that started out energetically with whistling and speed.....that quickly dissipated into quiet monotony.

It's hard work.

We get so accustomed to our clean school and classrooms that sometimes we forget what it takes to get it there. Since we are a small school in a small town, we all know one another. A teacher is no better than a custodian and our paths cross from simple acknowledgement to genuine friendship. One of my dearest friends here is a custodian. She left our classroom this year where she also worked as a para....and I miss her terribly. She is no less of who she is because she cleans rooms instead of teaching children. And neither am I, now that I do both.

Before you leave things scattered on the floor, put gum or something ugly in the trashcan, think of the person who has to clean it up. It's truly eye-opening, viewing the world from a different perspective.

It's rare that we get the opportunity to walk in the shoes of someone else. I plan on learning a lot in this journey.


Michael said...

Its always good to walk a mile in someone elses shoes!

clew said...

Great point of view, Lori! You always touch me with your entries.

Again, thanks for all your visits and comments too. You may take back what you said about my writing being lovely with today's entry ;) ... But I get ticked off sometimes. Don't tell anyone.

Have a wonderful weekend - I'm off to a Big 10 football game - one of the delicacies of fall that we've discussed!


srp said...

Yes we can all appreciate others by walking in their shoes. When my daughter was in her last two years of high school she went to the math & science school in Mississippi. Their buildings were on a college campus. They had to live in dorms and there were no custodians. All the kids had assigned service areas, cleaning bathrooms, cleaning classrooms, washing uniforms, cleaning their dining room and other tasks. I thought it was a really good idea, some may have never had to do work of that nature before. They even got a mark on the report card for their work: Outstanding, Adequate, Needs Improvement type of thing.

HeyJules said...

And this is why, when I am in a retail store, I stop and fold the sweaters back to how the others are folded - even if I wasn't the one that made the mess in the first place. : )

Anonymous said...

My Mother was a school teacher and I got to know all the janitors as well, when I was playing after school. Long hours is right, thankless job, nice post

Macromoments said...

Lori, you are so right. Those times when we step for a while into someone else's shoes are the experiences that teach us so much. (Hey, I noticed how shiny the floor was under your cart...looks like you're going to be a hard act to follow!)

tomdg said...

Excellent! Romans 12:16. I spent a bit of time cleaning floors and the like while in detention at school (a frequent occurrence back then). As a result now I'm always very careful not to walk on anyone's nice clean floor or to apologise to them if it's unavoidable.

Here in the UK, it seems most custodians and the like are immigrants who are never seen and live completely separate lives. This is a shame. In Switzerland, by contrast, I've heard that they travel to work on the same buses and trams as the bankers they work for. That strikes me as much more Jesus' way!

I heard last week that the board of directors at Tesco (our biggest supermarket chain) still spend a week every year working on the shopfloor, stocking shelves, manning the tills. Nice that people like that still see the value in a different perspective, just as you do.