VIPs – Part One

There are some very important people you need to know at your campus.

1.  The school secretary is a warm-hearted lady who is often a married mother or grandmother.  She is super-organized and maintains the budgets for the school as well as the principal’s calendar and appointments.  She is Mama.  Remember her birthday, kids’ names, and her favorite drink on a Sonic run.  If you are kind to her, she reciprocates.  She loves it when you remember administrative professionals’ day.  We call our building secretary “Chief.”  She is always ready to listen and lend a helping hand.  I turn in my purchase requests on time, and I can get what I need for my students without fail.  She has the inside track to supplies if you need them.  She may have that extra stapler, package of pencils, or pair of scissors you so desperately need.  Her desk is just the way she wants it!  Move items at your own risk.  I usually ask if she’s interruptable before barging in with my requests, concerns, and worries.  Our building secretary’s only flaw is that she is a Longhorn fan.  I am an Aggie, but we get along anyway.  She is a sweet, down-to-earth person who smoothes the rough edges we don’t see and makes it all look so easy.

2.  The school custodian/janitorial staff are unsung heroes of the hallways.  They make the rooms sparkle and help tidy the mistakes we and our students inadvertently make.  When our babies get sick or make a mess, they clear things up for us. At my first building assignment, we had a wonderful custodian who might have appeared rough on the outside but had a heart of gold.  I was unloading my supplies from my little car and felt dizzy.  Here came the pavement–bam! A city bus stopped, and the driver hopped out. My “second responder” was Bo, our janitor.  He hurried out the door and crossed the lawn.  I laid there a moment and gathered my wits.  Feeling embarrassed, I sheepishly sat up.  I assured both men that I was fine.  Bo collected my things, and I took his arm.  We went inside.   After that incident, I noticed that Bo would watch me just to make sure I was all right.  “I take care of my teachers!” was his mantra.  I wish I’d remembered to write a nice thank-you note or bake some chocolate chip cookies, but I appreciated his concern and compassion.

Mr. Will was a more recent custodian friend in my current district.  He and I discussed football scores during the season.  He is a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan like my husband.  One day I made him laugh because I seemed to stay late most days until one day a particularly nasty storm cell rolled in.  I apparently gathered my gear and made haste to leave.  He would kid me about that whenever the skies clouded up.  I felt protected by him.  My son also loved talking to Mr. Will; they disagreed about teams since my son is for some reason a Carolina Panthers fan.  Who knows why?  Whenever I see him, I run up and hug him saying, “Mr. Will!”

Alice followed Mr. Will at my school.  She was a gentle lady who made sure I watered my plants. She filled an empty water bottle, labeled it “plantas,” and pointedly left it in a conspicuous spot where I wouldn’t forget.  She is a native of El Paso; her younger sister Gaby is our head custodian for the night crew.  Before she went back home, Alice made me some homemade empanadas.  They were delicious! Alice would dust my desk and computer workstation.  I don’t know if everyone was treated as well because some people seemed to be resentful of the custodians coming in after our tutoring time ended.  I always tell them, “Nunca hay problema conmiga si necesita limpiar.” (Translation – there is never a problem with me if you need to clean.)  When they have a really short time to clean up–like Meet the Teacher or Open House nights–I do not mind them coming in.  I cannot do my job without them!

My custodian friends are now Maricela and Norma.  Maricela is there during the day; she’s been a regular fixture since I began my current assignment.  She shies away from the spotlight, but she is important.  We speak Spanish together, and I try to remember to ask about her family.  Some of our current students are relatives, and she protects them like a mama bear.  Norma is part of the evening crew; she is no-nonsense!  She doesn’t like me to go barefoot because of the staples that sometimes fall into the floor and then become weapons of foot destruction.  She surprised me this past Christmas with an angel figurine that I promptly attached to my key chain for school.  None of my custodian friends call me by my first name.  It is usually “maestra” or “Mrs. Johnson.”

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