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Let's Go!

Custodian and Teacher Still a Team After 36 Years

Dave Arnold

Joe Harner guessed that the new kindergarten teacher could use some extra muscle sliding her desk from one side of the classroom to the other. He could see that it was going to take all day for her to arrange books and student desks. The bulletin board was another project begging for attention.

So, he introduced himself as the school's custodian and said, "Let's do this job together."

It was a simple gesture, but Janice Soldner soon learned that she had encountered a colleague who was going to help smooth the path during her critical first year on the job.

Sharing Inside Information

In 1972, Joe was not only a custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Brownstown, Illinois, he was also a bus driver. Joe knew the order in which the buses lined up after school. The bus line dictated to teachers which classes to dismiss at what time.

Joe made it a habit to share this and other administrative, routine and otherwise inside information with Janice. Though Joe and Janice had their own distinct jobs at school, they kept in mind how they might help one another. Through highs and lows, their friendship has prospered for 36 years.

First Five

Teachers and ESPs have specific duties. But, each must work together as a team to operate the school efficiently and to guarantee that each student receives the best education possible.

On several occasions, I have stepped into a new teacher's classroom only find them in tears. Many of our newest, brightest educators seem frustrated and overwhelmed by the job.  More than 30 percent of new teachers leave within the first five years of teaching. This is a distressing statistic.

I always offer to help teachers, especially new ones,  in any way possible. In my spare time, I have graded papers, helped struggling students with science projects, and tutored some in math and reading.

Hopefully my efforts not only helped the student but also the teacher. Yes, I had to give up some of my time to help out, but I would like to think that they would do the same for me.

All of Us Educators

I don't know if my help and that of others is enough to keep new teachers from leaving the profession. I do know one of the teachers I've worked with is now in her eighth year of teaching while another called it quits after number five.
ESPs have various classifications such as bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, security guards, paraeducators. Teachers have their own titles, such as, history teacher, math teacher and so on.

But we are all educators. In some ways, we are kindred souls fighting to improve public schools. Each of us works for the common goal of providing children with a sound education. Regardless what our classification or title may be, we are a team. We do this job together.

(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is a custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois. He can be contacted at .

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.