If you read any of last week’s posts, you may remember that my parents were in town for a visit. Mom and I got a chance to shop and hang out, and she asked how my job in the business world compared to teaching. That got me thinking.

Now, Mom has always said that I should write a book about some of my teaching experiences. I never thought that I’d have all that much to write about. But now that I’ve got some distance from the world of public education, I see that what I used to call ‘everyday events’ were actually pretty extraordinary. So I thought I’d share some of the little-known facts that those of you who aren’t embedded in the education world may not have the privilege of learning. Here goes:

Technology is a Double-Edged Sword
When I first started teaching, ‘mandatory trainings’ consisted of gathering around the TV/VCR combo during a faculty meeting and watching whatever district-issued presentation had been approved for that particular year, and signing off on a sheet of paper that you’d attended. Usually just mundane, the worst was the blood borne pathogen video. Up close and personal, I learned more about how to clean up spurting bodily fluids than I ever cared to. And, to make it worse, our faculty meetings were always before school, around breakfast time. It’s hard to choke down some yogurt or toast when blood is pooling and spurting on the screen. But gradually these video-based sessions gave way to the online version. That was better. Still mundane, but clicking through slides and answering random questions got rid of the spurting blood. Especially when you could borrow the ‘study guide’ from a nearby teacher who’d just finished the training.

School Nurses Are Grossly Underpaid
Never did I learn this more than the one year I taught in a district close to home. Literally, five minutes away. See, I’m sure any of you who’ve been to school remember the twice-yearly head check. That’s right – the Lice Check, folks. Well, apparently this particular district decided that the Lice Check wasted valuable instructional time. Lining up the whole class, walking to the nurse, waiting, walking back, etc. It takes time. So in this well-meaning district, once per six weeks I would get a bag of sticks and a pair of latex gloves in my mailbox. You guessed it – teachers had to do their class’ Lice Check every six weeks. The one thing I can’t stand is the idea of lice. Just the thought of it and I feel things crawling all over me. So imagine me, with my gloves and two sticks, checking heads. The boys were OK, but the girl with the waist-length hair that hadn’t been combed (or washed) in a while – yech. Nurses should earn combat pay.

Yes, Even Puke Has Rules in School
Knock on wood, I was never peed, pooped or puked on during thirteen years of teaching. I’ve had kids puke on desks. No big deal. But I did become briefly notorious during one week in my music teaching days. See, in a typical day between 120 and 270 kids would come through my room. Yep, you read that right. And  if a virus is going around, that seriously ups the odds of sick kids in one place at one time. One day, after I’d called the office for the fifth cleanup in a day, our oh-so-patient head custodian personally showed up to do the deed. I loved this man. Always ready with a smile and a joke – for teachers or kids – he was a rare gem. But as he showed up for my fifth cleanup – this time a splatter in the doorway – he leaned in, put his face close to my ear, and whispered, “Ms. B – what the hell are you doing to these kids in there today?”

And the rules don’t stop there. Standardized testing?? As much as I hate it, I’ve got to hand it to the folks in Austin – they’ve obviously hired real teachers to come up with rules for every possible testing scenario. In the Lice Check district, we had a kid puke on Test Day. All over the test and his answer sheet. Guess what? According to the rules, a teacher has to transcribe all answers onto a new answer sheet and write up a detailed explanation (witnessed by the counselor) of events leading to the transcription. But it doesn’t stop there. Apparently two adults’ statements that the original got puked on aren’t enough evidence. Rules state that you also must bag and submit the original testing materials along with the transcription. Yep, folks, that means that a bagged, puke-covered answer sheet went to Austin in a Priority mail envelope. I bet the person who got to open it felt really lucky they decided to come to work that day.

Teachers Get Built-In IQ Tests, Daily
I spent two years teaching in the Hood. As the music teacher, I saw each kid once every seven days. They rotated through art, music, PE and the library. In one particular kindergarten class a kid gave me trouble. Shocker. Teaching kindergarten music is like herding cats, in case you wondered. So anyhoo, I asked this kid’s name and he told me it was Montell. By the end of class I knew Montell’s name on the first day. Few days later – same kid. ‘Montell! Please sit down.’ Kid replies, ‘I’m Montrell. You got my name wrong.’ Few days later – same kid. But this time he tells me I’ve got it wrong – it’s not Montrell, it’s Montel. Confused yet? I was. I couldn’t get it straight for six weeks.

Until the day we pulled the entire kindergarten together to practice the Christmas program. And I finally figured it out. THERE WERE TWO OF THEM! TWINS! AND THE MOM NAMED THEM MONTELl AND MONTRELL. Really. I can’t make this stuff up. There was another set of twins too – Johnny and Jommy. Honestly, if you have twins it should be mandatory to give them drastically different names!

Not All Fashion Police are Adults
During my second year in the Hood, we got a lot of new kids from Hurricane Katrina. No, no sets of twins among them, thanks. But there was one special little cherub named Jacklyn. Sweetie – she always welcomed me with a smile and a hug. Until the day I got a haircut. ‘Ms. B – why’d you go get a wig?’ ‘Jacklyn, it’s not a wig. It’s my hair. I got bangs when I got my haircut.’ Nope. No way. She just wouldn’t believe it. We went back and forth until, as I was sitting on the floor with my circle of kiddoes playing a game, she decided to PROVE it to me. By climbing up into my lap and trying to pull that wig off my head. Needless to say, it didn’t work. And that was the last time I cut bangs with layers.

Dress Codes are for Everyone
One of the schools I spent time in had a very strict dress code for staff. Students wore uniforms. And one of the specific rules for staff stated that ‘stirrup pants are not to be worn.’ Can you guess the age of the principal and when the dress code was written just by that one rule? You’re probably right. Well, one of the teachers got called into the office one day for a violation. It was a full-on, behind-closed-doors official reprimand. The teacher in question was called out for wearing leggings with her over sized t shirt. Granted, it was a violation, technically. But let’s look at two important factors. One – the teacher was eight and a half months pregnant, hubby was in grad school full time and she had woken up that morning to find that absolutely no other pants fit. If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that this can and definitely does happen at the drop of a dime. Factor two – this teacher taught PE. But she got called out anyway. She tried to explain the situation to no avail. She was told to change or go home. She went home.

That’s all I’ve got for today folks – but I’m really just getting started here. I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions for future ideas. Should I turn this into a book? Starting to think so.

Maybe I’ve finally found my hobby…

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Filed under kids, Moms, Teachers, working moms, writing

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