Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tricks of the Trade

by special guest blogger Schoolgal

Ms. Malarkey recently posted how her legs are not cooperating when it comes to climbing chairs and desks to put up those wonderful print-rich materials that so impress administrators on their walk-throughs. I reached that point a few years ago after I fell off a chair and tore my meniscus.

When I started teaching (way back in the 20th Century) it was supposedly illegal for teachers to move furniture. Well the school police never arrested anybody for that infraction--and I prayed they would. In fact, if it leads to a fracture, the DoE has the right to disallow it as a LODI (line of duty injury) because you broke the rules. Funny which infractions are allowed to be broken, right along with the teacher.

But never underestimate the benefits of the school-support team. The school's custodial team and school aides are the backbone to getting your classroom in good working order. I was lucky enough to have a custodial worker help me put up my charts. When I ordered a bookcase, the custodial worker would put it together for me. If I needed a repair, usually having to do with shades or lighting, I wouldn't always have to go through the "approval" process. When I stayed late and they would come to clean the floor, they always found it clean.

Some teachers don't have their children pick up after themselves, I did. And there was always a cold bottle of water waiting for them from my mini fridge. I also tipped and give generously at holiday time.

I have to tell you that custodial workers give the head custodian feedback. The head custodian knows which teachers keep their room in order and which don't. And they report it to the principal.

The school aides are, IMHO, the backbone of the school. They are usually a friendly bunch of gals, but I have seen them mistreated by the administration and under-appreciated by staff.
I remember years back I sat with the aides during a Christmas party. That table was the best. The laughs just kept coming. They confided in me that teachers usually do not show them any respect. Don't be like those teachers! Aides know everything that goes on in the school. And in their own way, they can be powerful. They not only take care of the copying and lunchroom, but they have the keys to the supply closet.

Aides can spot teachers that are good and care about their students. They also know which teachers are responsible and which ones are "flighty". So it's important to always pick up your class on time. If you remember them at holiday time, they will appreciate it. If you need copies in a hurry, they will cover your back. If you need to use the restroom when you return from lunch, they will watch your class. If you run out of chalk, they will get it for you. But, keep in mind you should never take advantage.

Are all school aides friendly? No. Some may even be downright nasty. But it's still important to keep that smile on your face when you pass them by.

It is also essential to back them up when they report a problem to you. Some teachers feel that lunchtime problems are not their problems. That philosophy should be on a case-by-case rather than the norm. If a child disrupts lunch, the administration should follow up--not the teacher. But if it's something you can handle, do it. Also try to make sure your class knows the rules apply at lunchtime too and you will not be happy to get a bad report. If it means a demerit or taking away a special activity, follow through.

As teachers we appreciate it when we are backed up. We need to apply that support to the aides as well. (FYI: Their union sucks!!! So they are at the mercy of the principals and have very little recourse if they are mistreated. Their salary is the worst, yet the UFT follows their pattern.)

Lastly, there are the secretaries. They know everything too. But most is responsible for your paycheck and the other for your student records. Don't ever mess with them!!

If you are lucky to have nice secretaries, then you have nothing to worry about when you need a favor. When you get a discharge, try to get the student record to them ASAP. If you feel your grade registers are not equalized, they will know why. If there is a problem with your paycheck, they will make the calls immediately and report back to you.

But if they are total bitches who report back every move you make to the principal, watch your step. And you can put coal in their Christmas stocking because they do not appreciate gifts if the principal makes them "all powerful" instead.

So next time your body can't climb a chair, or you are out of staples, you've got somebody covering your back.
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