I walked into my school one morning to find my daytime custodian not her usual self. She typically greets me with a big, cheerful smile while she simultaneously is cleaning off tables that students have gotten up from after they have eaten breakfast...sticky syrup everywhere. She is always busy in the cafeteria when I arrive: cleaning tables, sweeping Lucky Charms off the floor, mopping up chocolate milk spills. She then usally goes over to the gym to "tidy up" after all of the students have gone to class. That is about 7:40am. I usually walk over there to check for backpacks, jackets and lunchkits left behind. My job then is to return these items to their rightful owners (only if they are labeled, of course.)
It was 7:20am in the morning and she had already been called to the adult bathrooms in the Kindergarten hallway because there was no soap in the dispenser. I would find out about it at 8:15am after she was called to the student bathrooms to fill the toilet paper dispenser. To her, it just wasn't fair. She took me to different dispensers to show me that they were not filled the night before. I could tell, over time, she had become so frustrated at this. I could also tell this was not the first time. It probably wasn't the fifth time. She probably had to attend to this 2-3 times a week. I completely understood why she was so bothered.
You see, my daytime custodian is there by herself. When I say "by herself" I mean there are no other custodians there while she is there. The night time staff consists of four ladies who have divided the building into quadrants, each lady responsible for one. My daytime custodian, however, is there during the day with 711 students, 60 faculty/staff members and however many other visitors and parents we have matriculating through our building that day.
Her responsibilities are many thoughout the day: breakfast clean up, lunch clean up, refilling soap/tissue/hand towels throughout the day, tidying restrooms throughout the day, and being pulled in 25 different directions to clean up spills, clean up vomit, and even to clean up feces on the wall (yes, we have that problem.)
She gets upset when the night ladies, who report to work after all the students are gone, don't do what they are supposed to do. Rightfully so. If they did what they were "supposed" to do, then she could come to work each morning and jump right to her responsibilities. I get that.
As a third grade teacher, I remember going through the cumulative folders and "checking out" my students before ever laying eyes on them. Something about knowing where they "came from" made it easy for me to formulate a plan for getting them where they needed to be by the end of their year with me. I can't lie, by the time I had taught 3rd grade for the 2nd year, it was apparent what teachers before me didn't do such a good job of making sure my students were prepared for 3rd grade. It was my goal not to be "that teacher" the 4th grade teachers would be "talking about" once they got their students for the year. Teaching is completely interconnected. As a teacher I completely depended on the teacher before me to fully equipt the students with the knowledge they needed to be successful with me. When they left me...same thing.
After a few days, it hit me like a ton of bricks as I made the ultimate connection. Her pain and disappointment was very much like my pain and disappointment back when I taught. Plain and simple, if the person before you doesn't make sure that everything is done properly, then you will have more work to do. I can't think of a better way to put that. I also, before this day, would have never connected the two areas of responsibilities. They are absolutely one in the same! There is so much interconnectivity in schools...so many people depending on others to do the "right thing," to "complete their tasks," to "take care of business." It won't be easy if "they" don't.
As building administrators, it is up to us to get everyone in our building to see the important part they play in the "big picture" of educating students and taking care of their needs while they are with us. It can be best compared to a puzzle piece...one missing piece makes the whole "puzzle" incomplete. Everyone (custodians included) plays an important part in the successful implementation of a campus vision. Everyone. Everyone has to pull their weight and everyone has to be on the same page. Everyone has to contribute and give it their all. If not, it falls on the shoulders of the next person, be that the next day or the next year. It is very important that everyone understands that.