Why It Pays to Be BFFs With Your Custodian (and How to Make It Happen)

BFF Custodian

When I was student teaching, my cooperating teacher pulled me aside one day to inform me of one of the most important things I could do when I finally got my own classroom. I listened closely for what I thought would be some earth-shattering art fact that would completely change my life. With all the seriousness in the world, she said, “You will need to become best friends with your custodian.” Although the news wasn’t earth-shattering, it was some of the best advice I received.

If there is one thing we can all agree on, it would be this: Art can be messy! Since our time is often consumed with priorities other than cleaning, we must make an effort to befriend the people in our schools who can help us make our rooms sparkle!

I have had six different custodians since I first started teaching in my building five years ago. Whew! That’s a lot of new friends to make. But the effort was worth it to have a well-organized and clean room every morning. Not to mention, I also formed some great relationships.

If you aren’t sure how to strike up a friendship with your custodian, try out some of the tips below.

10 Tips for Befriending Your Custodian


1) Learn your custodian’s name.

It sounds simple, but it’s the best way to start a relationship off on the right foot. Everyone likes to be known and acknowledged!

2) Keep the room as clean as you possibly can to lighten his or her load.

Custodians have the whole school to clean. Have your students help out by keeping your room clean throughout the day.

3) Strike up a conversation.

Again, this is simple, but if you think about it, custodians are often in the same boat we are. There generally is just a handful of custodians (or maybe just one!) per building. Even just saying hi and smiling can make his or her day (and yours).

4) Show him or her around the art room.

Make your custodian familiar with where he or she can find certain cleaning items in the room. Sharing ownership of supplies will help your room be ready to go when you return in the morning.

5) Leave a note on the board.

Sometimes if I haven’t seen my custodian in a while I’ll leave him a friendly note on the whiteboard. This also works great when I need to tell him something important, and I can’t find him.

6) Leave a special treat.

Being the art teacher, I sometimes get WAY too many sugary treats from students celebrating birthdays. Instead of eating them all or tossing them in the trash, I always save some and ask my custodian if he’d like to share.

7) Be organized.

Yes, I know that word is sometimes not in an art teacher’s vocabulary, but the wonderful people who clean our rooms really would love us to be as organized as possible, so they can do their job well.

8) Politely ask for help

Don’t be afraid to nicely ask for help when hauling or moving heavy things. If you’ve already done some of the things on this list, your custodian may be very willing to help out a friend, and may enjoy doing so too!

9) Be respectful

Just as you want respect from your students, fellow colleagues, and administrators, everyone wants that from you, too. Respect the custodians for what they do and never take advantage of their position.

10) Say thank you.

Like our work in the art room, the hard work of custodians sometimes goes unnoticed. A simple “thank you” can do wonders!


These ideas will allow you to start forming a relationship with one of the most important people in the school. The person that behind the scenes, often with little acknowledgement or thanks, keeps things running smoothly for you and your students.

What tips do you have for becoming besties with your custodian?

What is the nicest thing you’ve done for your custodian and/or they’ve done for you?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jennifer Borel

Jennifer Borel is one of AOEU’s Adjunct Instructors and Academic Advisors and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She runs her own photography business and is passionate about students exploring the medium.

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