I had funny experience subbing at a school today. As I was walking down the hall before first bell to my portable classroom, a smiling woman a few years older than I greeted me warmly, asked my name, we shook hands, and she introduced herself as the custodian, as I remember it. I thought, wow, she dresses really nice for a custodian, and was delightfully surprised that she put on her best and communicated such warmth, seeing that as part of her role. A rather non-traditional interpretation of the role of custodian, but, I why not? I remember fondly both the custodians in my elementary school (called janitors in those days) as kind, humorous, humble older men who seemed like uncles to us, with their keys and mops and kindly eyes. We visited with them, confided with them, joked with them, and they were free of any authoritarian aura. The janitor helped anchor the school atmosphere in a kind of comforting parental domesticity.
During the morning announcements today, this custodian was part of a skit on fairness, and it was really well done–cute, understandable and relevant to students of any age; again I noticed her warm smile and enthusiasm, and was surprised to see her level of involvement in the school’s culture.
As I was circulating among students in my class while they worked on their assignments, the custodian came in to ask how things were going, and I said great, and complimented her on her skit. She laughed and replied that she was always nervous doing that sort of thing. She went on her way, and I asked one of the students what was her name again, as I have a bad habit of letting these details slip on first encounter. That’s Mrs. X____. Which I knew, because of prior research, was the principal‘s name. I told the students what had happened, how I really did hear “custodian,” and it was either a good trick of hers or of my aging ears.
I work there again tomorrow, and plan to bring the story to her and see if she confesses. I’m sure we’ll have a good laugh at the very least.