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What I've Learned

as an elementary school custodian


Dave Arnold has been a custodian and maintenance man at Brownstown Elementary School in Brownstown, Illinois, for 30 years. Here are the lessons he’s learned on the job.


I’ve learned that it takes a lot more work to keep a school clean and running each day than people may think. Not a lot of people realize how many hours are spent stripping, waxing, buffing, shampooing, and vacuuming floors. They don’t know what it takes to maintain heating and cooling systems so everybody is comfortable, or what big mountains of trash a school full of busy children can produce in a day.

I’ve learned that teachers work very long hours. Most of them are still in their classrooms after I’ve put in my eight hours each day, and many others take evening college courses after school.  I also know they work 12 months a year because I see them when I’m cleaning the building over the summer.

I’ve learned that children are far more impressionable than I ever thought. I never considered how closely children were watching and learning from me until a student said he wanted to become a maintenance man because, “Dave knows everything.” Another student told his mother I could fix the family VCR because, “Dave can fix anything.”

I’ve learned that a child can make almost anything disappear in the strangest places, like the orange found lodged in a toilet drain or the dozens of milk straws stuffed into a kindergarten classroom sink.

“I’ve learned that there’s even more teamwork in a school system than on a basketball court, and each and every school employee is an integral part of that team. We all have individual talents that help shape a school and educate a child.”

—Dave Arnold

What have you learned on the job?

Send an email to Cindy Long with your job title, the name of your school, city and state, and the five top lessons you’ve learned in your position in public education.


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