Take Your Partner to Work Day
ne morning about a week before spring break, a group of students got up early for work - a kind different from their usual. Rather than studying in the library or writing papers, these students cleaned - classrooms, hallways, dishes, and yes, bathrooms. For the first time as part of the Learning for Life (L4L) program, students accompanied their partners to work.
The L4L program pairs Swarthmore students with staff members, primarily from Environmental Services (EVS) and Dining Services, to work in partnerships for the year. Each partnership decides what they want to learn together and sets up individual meeting times throughout the semester. Partnership activities range from photography to computer skills and many partners teach each other how to cook or serve as work out partners in the gym.
Stephanie Charpentier '08 helped organize Take Your Partner to Work Day.
For Take Your Partner to Work Day, Lucy Warrington '10 and I worked with Mary Cooper. Upon arriving in Mertz, we quickly put down our books, rolled up our sleeves, and donned blue rubber gloves. We were ready to take on the bathrooms.
Mary assigned us tasks - Lucy started on the mirrors, I took the sinks - and patiently showed us which cleaning supplies to use and what details to make sure not to miss. As I approached my first sink, I was confronted with a ring of facial hair clippings, reminding me that I was in the men's bathroom. While Lucy and I were surprised, Mary was unfazed. She matter-of-factly pointed out that this was a common sight.
After finishing the sink area, we moved to the toilets and then swept and mopped the floors. While cleaning together - and laughing at my mistakes - was a lot of fun for all of us, I understand that there is a big difference between working for an hour among friends and working eight hours, five days a week. It was enlightening to see the incredible amount of energy and hard work that Mary puts into cleaning Willets and Mertz every day. After this experience, I will certainly be more aware of how I leave spaces around campus. While I respect that Mary was unfazed by the messes she cleans up, maybe she shouldn't have to be.
economics and history
New York City, N.Y.
I got involved in L4L during the fall of my first year after Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Diane Anderson recommended it to our Introduction to Education class. I partnered with Sharon Pierce, a night shift EVS worker. I'm still working with Sharon, and we've become great friends. This semester we're hosting a radio show together on WSRN (be sure to tune in from 9-10am on Friday mornings!). We mostly play music and talk to each other and we occasionally have other L4L partnerships on the show for interviews.
On Take Your Partner to Work Day, I worked with Charles Thomas in the Science Center, who showed me how to use the floor scrubber. Nothing makes you realize how much hallway is in the Science Center like the experience of pushing a heavy machine through it. I worked with Charles for just an hour, so I was only able to get an extremely limited idea of what his job is like. However, the experience of being in Charles's workplace with him reminded me how he and the rest of the EVS staff put their hearts and souls into keeping the facilities here as beautiful as they are. As a student, it's easy to forget that, since most of the cleaning takes place at night when we're not around. The last thing I want to say is that Charles could not have been a kinder or more patient teacher. Be sure to say hello to him if you're working late on the second floor of the Science Center. He's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.
I worked with Tony Agostinelli in the dish room of Sharples Dining Hall, which basically involved sorting the silverware, bowls, plates, cups, and trays as they came at us one at a time on the conveyor belt. It was much harder and more complicated a process than I thought it would be - and much more fun! Tony and his coworkers are so loving and they all get along really well. Everyone I talked to commented that while the job is just a job, they get along great with the people they work with which makes it all bearable. They had a good time laughing at me whenever the trays would come too fast and I would try to scoop up all the dishes at once and of course fail miserably. They also got a kick out of me getting burned over and over by the plates that came out of the dishwasher steaming hot, which they were all used to picking up with their bare hands. I had too much pride to let them slow down the conveyor belt speed for me, but I found out later that Roy had done it anyway when I wasn't looking. It was a good time; we laughed a ton (mostly at me), though I realize that working there for one hour for fun is way different from working there full time for pay. They invited me back and gave me a Sharples uniform to keep, though, so I intend to follow up with them on that.
I got involved in L4L last year when a friend told me about it. This year, I've been working with people who work the night shift. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I work out in the gym with my partners. I know a little bit about weight lifting from having had to train for baseball, so for a couple of my partners I've set up programs of routines to follow. Another one of my partners teaches Karate classes in South Philadelphia. His uncle is a professional body builder, so he knows a lot about conditioning and fitness and has shown me a few exercises that I've used for myself.
Most memorable for me about Take Your Partner to Work Day was trying to operate the massive floor cleaner that Charles Thomas, one of my partners, uses to scrub and polish the floors in the Science Center. It's tough to maneuver and I did not have an easy time with it, but Charles navigates it with skill. Going to Take Your Partner to Work Day gave me a chance to see firsthand all of the hard work that goes into keeping this school clean and beautiful, and the tremendous job that the environmental services workers do.
English and history
San Francisco, Calif.
I really loved the Take Your Partner to Work Day. After waking up much earlier than I usually do, my partner showed me the buildings that he worked in and how to properly clean a bathroom. The experience really made me appreciate the work that he does and how clean our bathrooms are when we wake up each morning!
I got involved with L4L through Diane Anderson's Literacies and Social Identities class in the fall. Darryl Stewart and I have worked on a few different things. Last semester, we used the computer to edit digital photos and design a t-shirt, which we made using iron-on transfers. This semester we have been working out, and he has even taught me some boxing moves!
Education and Psychology
Noah Marks '11 helped clean Trotter Hall, the College's second oldest building, with Val Gibson.
Take Your Partner to Work Day was enlightening, interesting, and most importantly, fun. Over the past year, I have spent hours with Val Gibson through L4L, but this is the first time I went "behind the scenes," putting on rubber gloves and finishing his janitorial work in Trotter. I gained new respect and appreciation for him and the entire EVS staff as I slowly swept a staircase that usually takes him five minutes. I also believe that it was a moment of pride for Val when he got to show off his prodigious skills and truly expand my knowledge and abilities through his and L4L's help.
When I was looking at Swarthmore as a prospective student, L4L was a program that caught my eye on the web. It interested me because it seemed to epitomize the "think big, act small" philosophy that I had heard about on my tour. It was exciting to envision learning something unique and one on one. This year, I have worked out in the gym with Val and tutored him on Word, Excel, and general computer skills.
I heard about L4L through a first-year seminar with Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Diane Anderson, the faculty member behind the program. A lot of people in that course wound up doing L4L (including Carson Young '10, who now serves as L4L's treasurer). It just sounded like a really cool program. I thought it would be a good way to get to know more people on campus and to connect with people that I wouldn't typically interact with in a college setting.
After cleaning up a lecture hall with some of the ladies on the night shift, I woke up five hours later to go to work with my partner, Rasheed Willis. I was dead tired, but I realized that many of the staff members only sleep for about four or five hours every night because they're so busy with work, which gave me an even greater appreciation for what they do.
I walked up to campus, watching the sunrise, and met up with Rasheed in Pearson Hall. He had me empty all of the trash and recycling baskets on all three floors of that building. I had never realized how many offices there are in Pearson, each of which has its own trash and recycling cans. After two hours of work, I was finally able to relax while Rasheed headed over to clean another building.
I've worked with Rasheed since the fall of my freshman year. We started focusing on health and fitness stuff for the first three semesters and would work out with each other or go for walks in the Crum. It was good because it kept us active and gave us opportunities to talk - which was especially helpful when I started thinking about my Lang Opportunity Scholarship project and working on the application. I wanted to (and hopefully will) start a program in Chester, where Rasheed lives, so he was incredibly helpful in supporting me, giving me advice about what would work, and helping me to think through my different ideas.
This experience really showed me how much work goes in to maintaining Swarthmore, and I truly appreciate what Rasheed does. It's amazing how much people may take for granted because the cleaning usually happens when no one else is around. I think Take Your Partner to Work Day really opened up my eyes to what happens on campus.
Sociology/Anthropology and education
Ann Arbor, Mich.