Friday, October 2, 2015

The Creative Soul Who Cleaned My Classroom

We honored our maintenance staff at work this week, only one of them wasn’t there. 

My friend, Robert Gillett. He died February 2014 after a battle with cancer. Robert and I shared two common interests. Writing and politics.

He wrote prolifically. Poems. Essays. Letters to the Editor. Letters to elected officials. Emails to radio talk show personalities.

It seemed to just pour out of him. He’d often ask me to proofread, and I gladly did so. It served as a refreshing change of pace for this teacher of middle school students.

Some days I’d return to school to find a poem on my desk.

I miss that.

Other days I'd find a short story or a quote about one more thing he wanted to say in our discussion about politics or religion.

I miss those too.

And now during this political season, I really miss my friend. He’d be having a ball since the three GOP candidates leading in the polls are non-career politicians.

So today, National School Custodian Day, I honor Robert. He was my co-worker, but most of all, my friend.

I miss him.

Do you have a memory of your school's maintenance crew? For those that knew Robert, share a memory of him.


  1. I also used to get his poems on my desk from Robert. Always made me smile. I loved how willing to help Robert was. If any kid or I needed something during play practice that we couldn't get to, Robert dropped whatever he was doing to help us out.

    1. Sounds just like Robert. He wrote a poem about bullies. Great rhythm. My plan was to have him read it while I videotaped him. Never got it done.

  2. Some of the most interesting and thoughtful conversations I've had were with Robert. It's not unusual for me to have a friendly relationship with my schools custodians. It was a necessity as I teach art. What was so unusual was to have a custodian who didn't shy away from asking questions of a classroom teacher. Robert was hired the last year I taught in his school. Yes, politics was one of his favorite subjects but he really had a way of putting a verbal twist on things that doubled the meaning of the words. I only got to read one of his poems. It was about a man who had a conflict with another individual that at the end of the poem is revealed to be a bottle of booze. I really wish I'd been able to read more of his poems. Sorry to hear this unique voice has been silenced.

    1. I'm glad you got to know Robert, for it seems even though it was only for one year, he made an impression upon you. His poetry was at his finest after his diagnosis. He wrote a heartfelt come-what-may type of poem that was published in the funeral bulletin. It sounded just like him. Thanks for sharing how Robert made you think.