The Daily Life of A Custodian; Facing Stereotypes and Underappreciation

The crack of dawn seems late for custodians all across the US. This is especially true for Carla Avalos, who works at Angelo State University located in San Angelo, Texas.

Carla wakes up every morning at 4:30 am to prepare for her long ten hour work day. This morning, she arrives at the university at 5:53 am, just in time to open the doors for her fellow custodians at six am sharp. Once the door whooshes open, letting in the cool autumn breeze, it’s nonstop work for Avalos. On a good day she leaves the building by 5:30 that night. She then drives downtown to work the evening shift at Miss Hattie’s Restaurant.

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Her car’s wheel crunch on the soft gravel of her winding driveway around 11:30pm and she hits the sack 15 minutes later, needing all the rest she can get for her busy day tomorrow. Custodians give their minds, bodies and lives to their job, for benefits that sometimes go unnoticed. These workers are up and awake, working in schools before most people even have a chance to brush their teeth. Custodians are often overlooked and unappreciated, even when school citizens try to recognize their hard work. These custodians also suffer blows from heavy stereotypes placed upon them, even when students try to deny them. Underappreciation; Has The End Come? School custodians, in modern times, do so much more than just clean and maintain.

They work long hours setting up for various school events, whether they be concerts or lunchtime, the school’s custodians put in their all. More of their tasks include cleaning up things no one even dares to look at, plus keep work areas neat and tidy. According to Jefferson Junior High School custodians, some even do plumbing, electric and landscaping! On top of endless lists of jobs, custodians also face underappreciation. No matter how much today’s students are encouraged to say thank you and and have a conversation with their custodians; this praise does not flow freely to those who deserve it. That is a problem that can be corrected with just a simple greeting. For example; it’s Teacher Appreciation Week.

Students burst into the building carrying gifts and cards of thanks for their hard-working teachers. They compare their presents with others and laugh out loud at the cool things their parent’s found. When Custodian Appreciation Day rolls around, only a small group of students show up with gifts of gratitude. Custodians are trained to do their job not getting in the way of school life so it’s easy for custodians to unintentionally drift to the background. The truth is they deserve to and should be noticed just like all other staff.

Naperville School District 203 in Illinois’ students present another viewpoint. “The kids treat us great here at Jefferson, don’t you agree?” says Mike Stahulak to his assistant Mike Kruk. “Yeah,” Kruk responds, “you know they volunteer to clean the lunchroom and everything. They fight over who’s going to help, and I give them a cookie for helping.” If all students work to help out and befriend their custodians, the result would be a happier staff and maybe even better learning conditions. 7th grader Austin Peyton knows all about that.

After encountering a camp custodian who wasn’t quite as cheery as his District 203 custodians, Austin says, “I thought they were all the same. I didn’t think custodians were really ever nice. I didn’t think they were respectful, but then I learned how great the custodians here at Jefferson are; and they’re pretty great!” Appreciation towards all staff is key to a positive school experience. Solving Stereotypes Custodians also have many stereotypes to deal with. People think that janitorial services is a simple field to go into, but the truth is it’s not. Maintenance workers labor tirelessly to keep their schools running like clockwork, and it’s not easy.

Custodians arrive at Jefferson Junior High School in Naperville, IL starting at 6:30 am. Every day they open the school and fix anything that is broken before students burst through the doors. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, custodians make an average of $10.73 an hour and $22,320 a year. This is about half of a teacher’s average salary and an eighth of a physician or surgeon’s average salary [in 2014]. Custodians do the same amount of work and use the same social skills as other jobs, yet they get paid far less.

One reason for this is abundant stereotypes. When several middle school students were asked to draw what they thought a custodian looked like, many drew shabby working clothes and a typical maintenance jumpsuit. In reality, while some custodians do meet these opinions, according to Mike Stahulak, site manager at Jefferson Junior High School, most custodians tend to work to keep themselves presentable throughout the day. “It was all based upon that person,” he says, “how they present themselves to people, how they dress.” Custodians sometimes have the opportunity to do a lot more than their job description implies. The custodians at Jefferson Junior High have been known to coach teams and participate in school activities.

Custodian Mike Stahulak doubles as a football and wrestling coach once the dismissal bell rings. Stahulak says on his involvement, “I like just being a big part of the school, interacting with the kids one on one and being a part of the school spirit.” With the full support of others, custodians can do great things! Make A Difference Overall, custodians are hard workers that are severely stereotyped and underappreciated. Through all their hardships, they still find a way to make their schools run like clockwork. Next time a custodian looks down or even seems to be doing fine; say hi or smile. Get to know them, because in the end, it will make all the difference.

Works Cited Attal, Anna. Personal interview. 8 Oct. 2015. Giehler, Mikayla. A Jefferson custodian takes boxes down from a storage room.

Digital image. N.p., n.d.

Web. Peyton, Austin. Online interview. 23 Oct. 2015.

“Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.

S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 Jan. 2014. Web. 28 Oct.

2015. Thadani, Lavina. A Jefferson custodian folds up tables in the lunchroom. Digital image. N.

p., n.d. Web.