I am teaching custodial skills to 18- to 26-year-old special education students. The kicker is that the job site is our own school! We are the only custodians. I knew little about custodial skills, so I am learning while I am teaching them. If someone had told me a year ago I would be drooling over janitorial supply catalogs, I would never have believed them.
My job is unique in so many ways. Maybe all special education jobs are? Other job coaches go off school grounds to businesses and “coach” the kids in whatever the business wants them to do. I am the business owner and the job coach. I have to order supplies, be their coach, and get my crew to clean the school.
My work is seen everyday by the administration; some days that’s a good thing and other days not so much! The first few days of school I felt overwhelmed with the idea that I had to keep the entire school clean . . . wait . . . no, I am supposed to be training my students to keep the entire school clean! By looking at the school’s condition, it becomes obvious where we are on the learning curve. I keep getting confused: am I the vocational instructor or the chief custodian?
I am trying to figure out is how the school is run. My present school has key issues, I mean literally “key” issues. No teacher has a key to her own classroom. You cannot get into the building early because you have to wait until it is unlocked, which is about 45 minutes before school starts. You can’t stay beyond when administration leaves because they lock up and set the alarm, at which time you are asked to leave. I wanted to come in on a Saturday to do some organizing, hang a few hooks in the custodial closet, and generally just get my act together. . . . If you can’t come early and can’t stay late, you certainly can’t come in on Saturday.
Then there is the issue of keys to my supply closet. I have to have Doug, the bus driver, open it for me because I may not have keys to it. When the Doug forgets, I have to go to the administration to open it. There are some keys hanging in the office, but of course several of our paper towel holder keys are missing. I was a total rebel one day and took the available paper towel holder keys from the office and made several copies of them. I keep them in our classroom and even let the kids use them when they refill supplies! I know, I know, what a rebel!
Then there is the issue of supplies. I am to give my order to Doug. The problem is, Doug is extremely cheap—I mean, frugal. He tells me, “your kids are using too much toilet bowl cleaner, we can’t be out already!” I try and explain that whole learning curve thing to him, but I think it falls on deaf ears.
I have to remember that I am here to teach. These other things are little annoying issues that occasionally (okay, often) interfere with that goal. I will work on making changes where I can, but some things are not going to change and I have to remember to teach around them! So my mantra every morning is: I am here to TEACH my students custodial skills!