When I was doing my student teaching in Santa Barbara many years ago, the adviser to the science teachers in the program arranged periodically for us to meet after the school day with respected members of the teaching community. One of those meetings, at Santa Barbara High School, was with a veteran teacher whose name I have long since forgotten. His advice I have never forgotten.
One of the student teachers asked, “What one piece of advice would you give to a new teacher just starting a career?” His answer was, “Buy a broom!” His answer left us all speechless. Fortunately, he went on to explain his rationale.
He told us that in his experience, it was rare for administrators to come into a teacher’s room. However, every day there would be one or more custodians coming into the room. With an entire school to clean each night, it could not help buy impress the custodial staff if they found your room already swept. The logic, he continued, was that eventually this information would find its way back to the principal. Without ever coming in your room, the principal would learn that you were neat and responsible, and this would result in good evaluations.
Of course, in this day and age, the assumption that administrators do not come into classrooms is nonsense. However, the wisdom of taking care of you own room in still invaluable. When you know that you are going to be cleaning up messes left behind in your room, you become more likely to teach students to clean up after themselves. You communicate to students that custodians are as deserving of our respect as principals and superintendents. There can scarcely be a more important lesson for students to learn in school. Attending to my room has become a welcome ritual at the end of each day.
New teachers should quickly learn that in many ways, your greatest allies in your school will be the support staff – custodians, secretaries, attendance clerks, groundskeepers – all of the people who are so often forgotten schools celebrate successes. Do everything you possibly can to make their lives easier, and you will find yours becoming easier as well.
And yes, I have my own broom in my classroom. When I retire, I’ll leave it for the next teacher.