Ah, summer. The pace slows down and we can kick back before shifting into high-gear next fall. There are just two questions to consider:
Summertime and the livin’ is easy…right? Well, not quite.
Many classroom teachers, faculty members, specialized instructional support personnel, and education support professionals spend at least part of the summer updating skills through workshops and conferences. This is how we ensure that students, whether in kindergarten or college, are surrounded by caring, qualified, and committed professionals.
And there are some school employees who are generally busier than ever after the school year ends. What’s their summer reading consist of? Lengthy “to do” lists detailing everything that needs to happen to prepare for the next academic year.
They are buildings and grounds maintenance staff; custodians and housekeepers; mechanics; laborers; helpers; warehouse personnel; and crew leaders.
This summer, they’ll be working 10-hour (or longer) days to polish up, fix up, and spruce up buildings and campuses.
These “guardians of the school environment” will be juggling many tasks, including:
- stripping, waxing, buffing, and replacing floors
- scrubbing down classrooms and other spaces
- repairing broken chairs and desks
- reconfiguring, drywalling, and painting rooms
- rewiring and replacing lighting fixtures
- sanitizing, deep-cleaning, and disinfecting lockers, desks, chairs, restrooms, and shower areas
- seeding, weeding, and watering
- maintaining HVAC systems and repairing maintenance equipment
And that’s just on the first day of “summer break.”
One custodian says summer work is imperative because “first impressions are lasting impressions.” This is especially true for parents of new students who do a drive-by to see where the kids will go to school.
A former custodian in Kansas says the building’s appearance sends an important message to students. A clean building “shows our respect for the kids.”
There are many other ways custodians show how much they care, including listening to students’ worries and mentoring them, as a recent NEA Today article pointed out.
I know that more than once, I called on the custodian at my school. Steve would step in as planned and ask if I had a student whom I trusted to be his assistant for an important job, and I’d call on that child who needed a little attention. Steve knew just how to talk to them like a big brother and make them feel needed and competent.
This falls outside the job description, but they do it to connect with kids and help pave the way for students’ success.
“We need to help students forget their stresses from home and concentrate on becoming all they can be,” Marie Leonard, head custodian at Mont Harmon Middle School in Price, Utah, said in the NEA Today article. “I love hearing about their weekend adventures, and their highs and lows.”
To all the maintenance workers who make our schools and campuses shine, and to those who also find the time to reach out to students, we appreciate you. When it comes to creating environments that are safe, nurturing, and supportive of learning and exploration, you are the best.
Have a happy summer!