Friday, March 27 – Be Kind to Your Custodian

When a new teacher goes to work in a school they're most likely told to be nice to the secretary and the custodian because they'll get you what you need. I even said it myself to my daughter when she began teaching. After all, I am a school secretary and I know this to be true.

This post is in honor of our building custodian. We'll call him Georgio. He's from Italy, but lived in the US the better part of his 67 years. I found out recently that he is planning on retiring at the end of June. I really like him, but I would say that he probably should have retired a long time ago. He has one speed. Slow. But he does good work when he gets to it.

Some might think that being a school custodian is a pretty simple job, and it is for the most part, but it is also a dirty job.

Take for instance some of the events that our custodian had to deal with this week alone.

First thing Monday morning – he is called to the office because there is a mouse in the mouse trap in the office supply closet that isn't quite dead yet.

Then there's the call from a fifth grade teacher: Please page Georgio, there's something on the floor in front of the lockers in our hallway that looks like poop and smells like poop.

Another teacher calls to say that a student had a bloody nose in her room and there's blood all over the desk . Please page Georgio.

The drinking fountain in the third grade wing is leaking – please have Georgio check it out.

Tables have to be set up in a vacant classroom for a meeting. Page Georgio.

And then there's the dynamics of the nurse/custodian relationship in our building.

The school nurse comes into the office and demands (she does that a lot) that Georgio be paged because she has to show him something in the faculty room. She stands in the office doorway holding her cup of coffee making sure that one of us actually makes the call. She waits impatiently, eyes darting around, foot discreetly tapping, for him to respond. He lumbers down the hall in his signature turtle pace. She tells him to follow her. If he were a turtle, at this point he would suck his head, legs, and tail into his shell and play dead, but he isn't so he reluctantly follows her as we watch them turn the corner and leave our sight.

Within minutes she is back in the office. Still holding her coffee cup. Poised between our two counters and facing the principal's office. She tells us she needs to speak to the principal. Usually she just breezes by us but his door is closed and he is temporarily saved. But then, to his misfortune, he opens the door and she blurts out that she needs him to follow her. (At this point, he also is wishing he was a turtle.)

Within minutes he is back in the office and letting the secretary know that a work order has to be done to have the mouse trap in the faculty room replaced. Okay. A work order? Yes, that is what he requested.

It came to pass that we found out from a teacher who had been speaking to the nurse that when she called Georgio into the faculty room she asked him what was under the table in the corner. He told her that it was a mouse trap. She asked him what was on it. He told her, he didn't know, that perhaps it was some dust. She in turn said that she thought it looked like a mouse. He asked her if she was sure "because sometimes there is a picture of a mouse on the mouse trap". She said that she was sure and that he should get rid of it and put out a new mousetrap. He told her that he didn't have any mouse traps – that they come from the Head of Maintenance. And he told her that he would remove the mousetrap and ask for a new one once he finished setting up the tables for the meeting (which now was scheduled to begin in 5 mins.) And that was why she had to get the principal involved.

Later that day the nurse called and wanted Georgio to come to her office because her paper towel dispenser was only dispensing towels that were 8 ½ inches long and they should be at least 12 inches long.

And then she needed him to replace a light bulb above her desk.

As he was relating the story to me about the light bulb, he said he told her that he could replace the bulb, but if it was the ballast and he took that light bulb out, the light might not work at all. And he said to me "and in my mind I was hoping that the light wouldn't work and she'd have to sit in the dark, because we don't have any more ballasts." He got his wish.

Sunday is Georgio's birthday. May the next three months be free of blood, vomit, poop, and mice (and, between you and me, THE NURSE).

Friday, March 20 – Where are the Roman’s From?

Once again I'm relying on a story that was sent to me in an e-mail from that special teacher who used to live in this house:


Today's highlight--

While working on an essay, the following discussion occurred:

Girl -- "Miss M where are the Roman's from?"

Miss M – (burst of short laughter to catch my breath so I can ask my co-teacher) "Mrs. T, Girl would like to know where the Romans are from."  Mrs. T rolls her eyes and continues working.

Boy -- (Sarcastically) "They're from Japan."

Girl -- "I thought the Chinese were from Japan."

This is how my day is going.

10 minutes later, I heard a story about a girl in 6th or 7th grade that got her head stuck in a locker for 20 minutes and had to have the shop teacher come and pry her out.


Thanks for the laugh Miss M.

Friday, March 13 - What's In a Name?

We had a discussion about names in the office this week. It started because we recently enrolled a student whose name was a bit unusual, but then again, who is to say what is unusual in names these days. We don't have any Apples, or anything like that, and we don't have too many ethnic names. No Tomalia's or Sharonda's or Hips or Dips. So when we get a student with an ethnic name, one that can be used as an adjective in a simple sentence let's say, it might provoke a discussion.

Of course having a name that's a noun or an adjective is not a bad thing. You can name your child pretty much anything you want these days (like the family not too far from here who named their child Hitler), but there are times when the name is going to haunt the child and I can think of two that we've had in our district. Both of them did wind up changing their name and were happier for it.

The first one had a first name of Hardik. Yes, say it out loud and don't snicker. While this may be a very common name in the country of his family's origin, it is not a common name here unless you're using it in a derogatory way. This child entered our school system in Kindergarten and managed to get through the first two years of his life here unscathed by the cruelty of other children. However, as we knew it would, it didn't last. Our ESL teacher had to have a very frank conversation with parents who barely spoke our language to explain to them why their little boy was being scoffed at. They in turn, had to check with the grandfather whose privilege in their culture was to name his grandchildren. The child was given a nickname that was both acceptable to the family and the children in his class.

The second child had the last name of Dick. Again, in another country this name is a very common name and no one would think anything of it. But here, the use of the word dick is something that most 10-year-olds would find funny. Unless, of course, you were the 10-year-old who owned that name. The child eventually started using his mother's maiden name and the teasing stopped.

We like to have our children take pride in their ancestry and if that means having a family first or last name that is not so common we hope that they can handle it. We also like to hope that it is not our own children who are teasing the child whose name is not one that you hear every day.

Today I had a related conversation with one of my fourth grade teachers. She had a parent visit her classroom and in the course of the conversation the parent mentioned that her child's last name was spelled wrong in every place that it appeared - even on her report card. And she also mentioned that this had been the case since she enrolled her daughter in kindergarten. (Their last name is the same as the Yankee's third baseman who's been in the news a lot lately.) Apparently, the person who registered this little girl used a "q" instead of a "g" in her last name and it only took them 5 years to let us know that there was a mistake. Go figure!

Friday, March 6 - Getting Straight

I’ve been out of the office for two months now and I apologize if my material hasn’t been up to par. Rest assured, I’ll be returning to work on Monday and I’m sure I’ll be catching up on all the goings on that took place in my absence. Thanks for sticking with me.

In the meantime, this was shared with me by an 8th grade Language Arts teacher who likes to call me and make me laugh with stories about her special students:

(The student has her arm bandaged and turns to the teacher and asks…)

Ms. M. can you write my essay for me?


But my arm is hurt and I can’t write.

That’s not going to work. I saw you writing and you’re doing fine. By the way, how did you hurt your arm?

In the bus accident. (Her bus had been involved in a minor traffic accident.)

Looks like you were lucky you only hurt your arm.

Well, I hurt my back too, but my mother says I have to go to the orthodontist to get that fixed.

The orthodontist?

Yes, my mom says I have to get straightened out.

Well, only if you mean your teeth.