Monday, April 11, 2011

Bathrooms

When we go into teaching, we all know that we're not going to be working in shiny state-of-the art facilities.  We know that we're working with children and that things will get broken and dirty.  I was, however, under the impression that the custodians cleaned up and that basic supplies were provided.  Silly of me, I know.

The kids' bathrooms didn't have hot or even warm water.  They usually didn't have soap or paper towels.  Every year or so someone medical would come and do a big presentation for the kids about how to stay healthy by washing your hands in hot water with soap and drying them with paper towels.  The kids wouldn't listen, and it was hard to blame them - they had none of those supplies.  It's a little crazy-making to be told what to do and not be able to do it. 

These same people had mandatory trainings for the adults, to tell us how to avoid bloodborne pathogens.  Of course, it involved some of the same tips, but here was another good one: "Call the custodian and have him or her clean up the blood with gloves."  I sincerely hope that things have changed but if I had called 95% of the custodians I worked with, they would have asked why I wasn't cleaning up the blood myself. 

There was a dedicated adult bathroom, although a lot of teachers let kids use it, which wasn't nice for the rest of us.  It was not in the building I was in so I learned to run there and I learned to use the bathroom very quickly because teachers do not get much time to do things like that.  The bathroom was generally overlooked - dirty and lacking in supplies.  There was usually no soap, there were NEVER any paper towels, and there was often no toilet paper.

About five years ago, someone - I don't know who - decided to make the bathroom nice.  A little table was put in there, with a cloth over it and some silk flowers.  Some lotion was placed on the table and some hand soap on the sink.  It was nice and I think it raised morale.  The fact that someone could take the time out to do this when we are all so completely overwhelmed was encouraging.

Two weeks ago, I was back at the school for a volunteer project (photos coming soon).  I used the bathroom.  The same table is there.  The same cloth is on it and it has clearly not been washed or shaken out in the five years I've been gone.  The floor was filthy and so were the fake flowers.  I wondered again if the custodians are not aware of the bathroom, don't care, don't have time, or...?

These little things can make a big difference in a work environment.

Two years ago: The Benefits of Being White

Three years ago: Two Exciting Things

Four years ago: Robin Got Paid!

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