A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Custodians from hell

Okay, so I just went back into my classroom, and the first thing that comes to mind that is not incredibly profane is:

"Rowrbazzle! TANSTAAFL! Mule Fritters! Dingo Kidneys! Rackin'-frackin' son of a mule-skinner!"

Yes, apparently the custodial staff had been hard at work in my room-- listening to music on my radio, watching music videos on the classroom tv, and dumping my things in a big pile in the middle of the room and OUT IN THE HALL.

When I left school in June, I had put away almost everything. A summer school class spent part of the term in my room, and I assured my friend who was teaching in there that she could use whatever she wanted, but I KNOW she didn't leave things out to just be thrown around. Strangely, there is a diagram of my room drawn on the chalkboard, which states where everything WAS when they took out the furniture to do the once-a-year floor cleaning (oooohh, gross!), but apparently it was just put there for artistic purposes, since they didn't actually USE the diagram to put anything BACK. It looks like a tornado hit that room-- and I KNOW whereof I speak. And my fan is missing.

Oh. And they broke my chair. Irretrievably. The leather one I paid for myself, that replaced the cracked pumpkin-colored plastic one that I inherited.

This is not the first instance of this type of fun. I had a window that would not latch when I moved in. It had been like that for over five years and two previous occupants. Countless work orders had been placed on this bad boy, which resulted after four visits from three different custodians, in some nice shiny duct tape (or, as the maintenance supervisor calls it "duck" tape) being slathered across the two panes like braces on a twelve-year-old. But I guess I shouldn't complain too much about that one-- another colleague swung her window open... and watched it slowly pirouette away from the frame like Frank Poole's corpse in 2001: A Space Odyssey and plummet three stories to the ground.

When the custodian finally came to the room, he looked through what was now a insect portal in her wall and said, and I quote, "Hey. The window's broken." I actually heard my friend's knuckles crack like microwave popcorn as she clenched her fists.

Combine that with the wires hanging from my ceiling, the broken clock with the cracked plastic cover and the 3'x2' obsolete intercom system with yet another clock that hasn't worked since 1967 but yet somehow still has been left to adorn the walls and you've got a lovely refugee college student motif going on that would give Carson Kressley a fit of the vapors.

At my previous school, it was not this way. If a table needed to be removed, two guys and a dollie showed up within the hour. The floors were actually swept every day. Teachers were not expected to provide their own classroom clocks, batteries, or surge protectors on top of the million other things upon which we spent our own money. It didn't take three sullen, hard-bitten men two days to bring up a box of paper from the first floor. The maintenance supervisor didn't go out to smoke for lunch for an hour and a half every day, either.

It took me two years in my new school to learn the following things:

1. If you want something done, wait for the night crew to come on duty and ask Louise. Louise will actually get it done, and call you "darlin'," too.
2. If you can't wait for Louise, email the work order to the maintenance supervisor and CC the principal.
3. If it weighs less than two hundred pounds, move it yourself.

So now I will spend about 4 hours rearranging my room.

But, by God, someone's buying me a new chair. One as nice as the maintenance supervisor's.


At 8/10/06, 8:52 PM, Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

Sorry about your chair. I've had things walk out my door too. Last year I took digital pictures of things so I had proof they were in my room in May at the end of the year.

At 8/10/06, 9:55 PM, Blogger Cathy said...

Oh my, we have jewels as custodians. I am so sorry. And the chair, that just takes the cake.

I have had it when I have turned the radio on, that someone had been listening to a different station than I would. But that is pretty minor.

At 8/10/06, 10:02 PM, Blogger Mrs. T said...

With that mess, I'd go with the profane. I, too am very blessed with a superb custodial staff. They do have a summer crew, though and sometimes things go missing. My department shares an "art cart" that we use for projects. When we came in this week to scope out our rooms, we noticed that we've got "art", but no cart. Cart go bye-bye. It seems this can happen even when things are liberally labeled with masking tape and Sharpied room numbers.

At 8/10/06, 10:48 PM, Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

What a sucky story! Hope it gets rewritten for a happy ending--with a new chair to boot!

At 8/11/06, 10:03 AM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

Sorry to hear about that.

It's incredible what some people get away with. Maybe on your next column advising new teachers you could suggest bribes to the custodians and the bookroom attendants, as they're apparently the people running the school.

At 8/11/06, 11:45 AM, Blogger graycie said...

I'm so sorry -- especially about the chair. I'd come and help you put it all back together if I could.

One year, we came back to find that everyobody's classroom stuff had apparently been shoved into the hall at the same time so the summer staff could do the classroom floors in one fell swoop. There must have been thought put into shoving everything back into the wrong rooms -- my stuff was scattered in rooms all up and down the hall -- six or seven doors away from my own room. The nicely waxed floors were a mass after we shoved everything back where it belogned.

At 8/11/06, 2:12 PM, Blogger Teacher lady said...

Good gravy. No WONDER our educational system is in such disarray. How can kids be expected to actually, I don't know, LEARN when their classrooms are crumbling around them? And how the hell are you supposed to teach when people steal your stuff? Ridiculous.

At 8/11/06, 4:21 PM, Blogger Polski3 said...

IF I was you, I would put in a financial request for your principal to buy you a new chair, of your choosing. No way you should put up with such crap!

I plan to visit my classroom next week to see what it is like after being used for summer school.

Speaking of maintainance, when I taught on the Navajo Rez, our maint. dept. actually stapled a plastic bag over a leaking ceiling cooling duct (the principal of that school found a 'large' balloon of water over his desk the next am and managed to move his desk before it erupted all over it) AND, in the teacherage, our maint. people actually used a blow torch to looses some gas pipes. Somehow, maybe having had the right ceremony performed, no one blew up.

Have a GOOD start to your school year!

At 8/11/06, 7:24 PM, Blogger ms-teacher said...

Are you sure you don't work in my school district? My second year of teaching, my husband bought me a tool box and I was given a little vaccuum cleaner. When we got back from Christmas break, my room had been "broken" into, even though there were no signs of forced entry. Both of those items were the only two items stolen! It was a bit suspicious.

(I seriously feel your pain and hope that there's some resolution to your broken chair.)

At 8/11/06, 7:57 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

I've had fantastic custodians at both of my schools--but one year we "renovated" and my microwave, clock, pencil sharpener, and teacher's edition (yes, weird) all disappeared from the "safe" room they were stored in. Totally frustrating as I was only in my 2nd year of teaching and couldn't afford to replace any of it--and really, it was an horrible pencil sharpener!

(I'm also sitting on a broken chair--the wheel now falls off whenever you shift sideways...)

At 8/11/06, 8:24 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Thanks for the sympathy. It helps lower the BP.

It's just the custodians in this building. I keep saying I'm going to kidnap the maintenance supervisor at my old building and make him clean house at our high school.

To me, if they've got time to change my radio and watch videos on the tv, they've got time to put the room back into some semblance of order.

Oh, and I'm getting a new chair. COUNT on it.

At 8/11/06, 8:25 PM, Blogger mister said...

To "live free" means to be able to control your own life
and to avoid violence, or the threat of violence, by others.
What you do and how you do it will almost always determine
whether or not freedom will be yours. But YOU must take the
responsibility for creating your own freedom. No one,
especially the "government" will do it for you.
To "disappear" means to make it impossible for other
people to invade your personal world of freedom. Since most
of such invasion is by means of electronic data gathering and
cross-referencing, you must be able to short-circuit these
procedures effectively.

The most efficient method today is through the use of
what we call "alternate identification". If the new names
and numbers you plug into the networks don't match
the old ones, you have not only "disappeared", but have also
been "reborn". And being reborn means leaving your past records
where they can no longer affect you and your lifestyle.

This "disappearing" of individuals is obviously discomforting
to institutions and governments determined to control
personal activities in the Land of the Free. To them
it appears downright seditious, since in reality their power
depends directly on the number of people they can control --
through computerized records, of course.

To those who actually "disappear", however, the act is
one of tremendous personal liberation. Free men owe very
little to those who restrict opportunities on the basis of past
records. An extreme example, which nevertheless applies
to all of us, is this: When a person convicted of a felony
has served his full sentence, is he then "free"? Hardly.
What he will experience is really a LIFE SENTENCE of second-rate

And what happens to the convict, in practice, happens to
*everyone* who manages to have negative personal information
placed in his "records". When it comes to the point of a
person's having to live with a condemning past and ever-
narrowing opportunities, it becomes easily understandable
why he should be willing and anxious to scuttle his labeled
identity and take on another.

Becoming a new identity, however, involves many things
and requires careful attention to detail, as we shall show.
At the heart of this process, though, is the ATTITUDE a person
must assume if he is to make it work. He must forget
about his "government"; he must become his own government,
answerable only to himself, with his own rules, laws, and
systems of behavior. This is an existential "moment" few
are disciplined enough to experience, but it can be done.
The result will be a growing detachment from BIG BROTHER and
a correspoding increase of personal freedom.

The individual needn't worry about what would happen "if
everybody else did this" because they WON'T. The object is
for individuals, acting as individuals, to declare their
mental independence from whatever System is attempting to
enslave them. As individuals they are the best judges of what
degree of slavery they can accept, how far down the road
they can go before becoming robots for BIG BROTHER. Simply
put, it's the Sheep and the Wolves. The Sheep go to slaughter,
the Wolves wherever they wish...

There are numerous intermediate tactics between total
compliance and complete disappearance, such as refusing to
give your Social Security number (or giving it incorrectly),
avoiding taxes, obtaining several foreign citizenships and
passports, setting up bank accounts in several other countries,
and planning at least two routes of escape to other countries,
but in the end you will discover there really is no freedom
in the world -- *YOU MUST CREATE YOUR OWN*. You must
learn how to protect your own rights as you define them. No
one else will do it for you, *NO ONE*.
The object of this publication is to suggest ways an
individual can, in practice, escape his past and secure a
new future, *on his own terms*. Individuals will vary greatly
in how they carry out their disappearances, and it is our
hope that the ideas we present here are useful towards those
ends. We make no claims of completeness or of exhausting
the subject, as that could be potentially dangerous were
individuals to rely solely on this information.

We must stress that everyone should think over his situation
as carefully as possible, and then pick and choose
which among our methods are best suited for his needs. Above
all, he must begin using his head, trusting his hunches and
instincts, and thinking of himself as separate, different,
and even superior to those stuck in the System. He will
have to become a Wolf. He must stand alone to be free.imssb

At 8/11/06, 9:17 PM, Blogger quakerdave said...

Contractors are literally removing the roof from our building, to create a design flaw which caused constant roof leaks and a terrible mold problem. We will be opeing late this fall as a result. last week I drove by and the sun was shining down into my classroom.

I can't wait to see what it's like when I get back...

At 8/12/06, 3:10 PM, Blogger La Maestra said...

Opposite side of the US, same problems.

I've actually come into my classroom in the evening to find the following:

- custodian on my computer
- custodian's children drawing on my whiteboard with my markers (no wonder the tips kept getting smashed... and I kept blaming my AVID kids!)
- custodian ASLEEP ON THE FLOOR while her children jumped from desk to desk and banged on my keyboard
- custodian watching my TV (I disconnected it after this, since I never turn the darn thing on anyway.)

I actually joked with another person from custodial/maintenence that we should start drawing chalk outlines on the floor every place we've found the custodian asleep (she sleeps in many classrooms, apparently--not just mine.)

I do know she's working two jobs, but I hate to say it--there's a minimum work standard, and she's not doing it.

Our maintenence supervisor, however, is also our tech supervisor, and not only does nothing ever get done with him, but... let's just say that I've kinda burnt my bridges with him many times over.

And I have his daughter in my honors freshman class this next year. Ought to be interesting. Fortunately, I've met her, and she seems like a nice kid. Maybe since she'll be in my class, I can actually get stuff taken care of in my classroom (I had a broken window for most of last winter that finally got fixed in April. It was broken because it had been painted closed at some point, and on a 100F day early last fall, a student tried in un-airconditioned desperation to open it and managed to break it. So lovely.)

At 8/12/06, 3:12 PM, Blogger La Maestra said...

And on a side note, I can't believe that even with CAPCHA (the word identification w/ commenting), you still get comment spam. Ick.

At 8/14/06, 5:23 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

QD: Sing with me now: "Sunshiiiiiine on my shouuuuuulders makes me happyyyyyyyyyyy; Sunshiiiiiiiine in my eyyyyyyyeeeees can make me cryyyyyyyyyy....."

Hope it doesn't rain there in Jersey while your roof is AWOL.

la maestra: The year I had a board member's kid in my class, EVERYTHING got repaired in my room, and suddenly I had heat. It was great. Our maintenance supervisor apparently doesn't know how to use a computer. But his staff DOES know how to check out betting sites on MY computer while they're working feverishly to screw my room up.

And about the Spam: What the HELL was THAT? I think I'll leave it up just to amuse myself, but -- Golly!

At 8/15/06, 3:42 PM, Blogger quakerdave said...

In our school, it's the subs who keep doing bad things with our computers...

Our principal has placed this message on the signboard out front for the summer:

"When you have no roof, the sky's the limit."

A nice optimistic take on what's going to be a hairy fall, I fear...


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