Friday, December 26 - I'm Not Your Mother/Saving Me From Myself

After visiting our supply room earlier this week and seeing it in such disarray I grabbed my camera out of my purse and went back to take pictures. When I returned to the office I was voicing my frustration with the fact that the staff - who have unlimited access to the supply room - could not leave it in the condition that they found it. Empty boxes and wrappers adorned the counters and floor, while stacks of construction paper that had been neatly sorted according to color were now rainbow piles. It may sound like I have a touch of OCD, but I can assure you that I do not. But I do believe that you shouldn't just leave your garbage laying around. Especially if there's a garbage can within tossing distance. So I took some pictures and high-tailed it back to the office.

What I was going to do was write an e-mail to the staff and basically tell them that 1) I am not their mother and will not clean up after them, and 2) she called and doesn't like the way they left the supply room. And, of course, the pictures would accompany that e-mail (and possibly make their way onto this blog).

But here is what happened. Fortunately, there was a teacher in the office when I was telling the secretary what I was going to do and I am very greatful for what he said to me. He told me to do myself a favor and type up the e-mail if it made me feel better, but to send it only to him. He knew that he didn't make the mess, but that I might be alienating some of the staff by what I might have to say. He didn't tell me that I didn't have the right to feel the way I was feeling, in fact, he was very sympathetic.

I have to say that he totally caught me off guard. So much so, that I had to laugh at myself for getting so frustrated to begin with. Did I send the e-mail? No. And I know it was for the better.

One of my favorite sayings is "There's nothing wrong with thinking and talking as long as they're done in that order." Well, I think in this instance I would change that up to "There's nothing wrong with thinking and writing as long as you do it in that order....... and whatever you do, don't press send until you've had a chance to laugh."

Friday, December 19 - What Do You Do When......

What do you do when ….

A third grade student comes into the office and says that they just saw a man in a black and white striped shirt and a black mask, with chains on, just go into the lost and found closet and steal everything and run out the front door of the school? And this all happened right outside the full-length glass door and two windows opposite my desk while I was watching the class line up and his teacher was standing right there.

Simple – you say excuse me and walk into the principal’s office who will take one look at you and ask you if you’re all right and you’ll try to collect yourself enough to be able to actually speak and tell him about the conversation you just had.

Or say when….

A fifth grade teacher calls the office to find out if the band members in her class are supposed to bring their instruments with them to the gymatorium for the winter band concert?

Simple – you ask her, while trying not to be flip, if she thinks they might need them to play the music everyone is waiting to hear.

Or during this conversation when….

A parent walks in to the office and holds up an empty toilet paper tube and says –

“I need to drop this off for my son. You know, you can’t buy these in the store.”

(Be polite. What did she just say!) “Excuse me.”

“You can’t buy these in the store. I’ve been to two stores and no one seems to know where I can get them like this.”

(Don’t you dare snicker. You can’t let her hear you snicker.) “How many did you need?”

“I don’t know, he said to bring in extras in case someone forgot theirs. So I went to the store and I couldn’t find them anywhere. I even asked the guy stocking the shelves and he didn’t know.”

(Damn, the other secretary is snickering. I’m not going to be able to do this.) “Um, you just have to buy the roll of toilet paper and take the paper off. Didn’t they tell you that at the store?”

“Yes, he mentioned that, but I don’t want to do that.”

(Oh dear God, forgive me and don’t let me wet my pants.) “Why not?”

“ What am I going to do with all that paper?”

And you hope that she will make it out the front door before you and the other secretary collapse onto your desks and howl with laughter.

Friday, December 12 - 23 Degrees, Feels Like 17

We had a new heating and cooling system installed in our school over the summer. The air-conditioning seemed to work great. The heat – not so much. The daily routine now includes multiple visits and calls from every "Goldilocks" in the building letting us know that they are either too hot or too cold, and no one is ever just right. I'm pretty sure that we'll have this all straightened out by………..April.

So, in the meantime, there are classrooms where the teachers and the students have their coats on for the better part of the day. Well, I'm thinking that at least no one will be dozing off in those classes.

The beginning of this week was particularly cold. I know this for two reasons. One being the fact that the wind knocked the power out in the school neighborhood over the weekend and the heat was off, thus lowering the building temperature. This went undetected until Monday morning and, even though it's new, the new system needed time to "warm-up". I must admit that I had my coat wrapped around my legs because the office was very cold.

The second reason that I know this (besides having to walk from the car into the building) is because I have my computer programmed to have the Weather Channel update at exactly 10:45 each day so we can determine whether the students will be going out for recess.

We had a rule regarding the temperature. Had being the operative word here. The rule used to be that if the temperature was above 32° and the feels like temperature were above 32° that they would go out. Unless they were 5th graders. The 5th graders had the option of going out with even lower temperatures if they wanted to, as long as they were dressed appropriately. Now, this applies to all three grades. This also means that there is at least one teacher of the two on lunch duty that are willing to brave these temperatures.

On Monday we had low inside temps and the outside temp was 23°, feels like 17°. We were able to persuade our teacher in charge of 3rd grade lunch to stay in because the nurse had expressed a concern over children with asthma going out in such cold weather. I don't know what the 4th grade did, but the 5th graders were again given the opportunity to go out if they were dressed appropriately.

So herein lies the problem. Who decides what is appropriate dress? Normally you would hope that on a day with those temperatures children would come to school with long pants, long sleeve shirts and coats. Given our heating situation, you might even expect most of them to have a sweater on or a sweatshirt. At the very least, they would have a coat. No?

There are children dropped off in the morning wearing shorts and t-shirts and apparently it is not cool to wear a coat to school on the bus if you're a fifth grader. And I know that you're probably thinking that maybe they can't afford appropriate clothing but that is not the case in our district. What is happening is the parents are unwilling to stand their ground.

A mother actually called the office after school that day and wanted to speak to someone who could explain to her why her son was not allowed to go out to recess because he did not have a coat. He had a sweatshirt on and that's what she deemed okay for him to wear to school. After attempting to explain to her that while she might feel that was okay, we would not necessarily know that, and he or other students might have coats in their lockers and say the same thing. She continued on to tell me that you don't get sick from being cold, you get sick from germs, and why should he be punished because some other student was hiding a coat in their locker.

I would have liked to go on with her and ask her if she really thought that it was possible for two teachers to physically check 120 lockers within a couple of minutes to determine that no one was hiding coats, or whether it would be better to enforce the rule so that the majority of students could get outside in a reasonable amount of time. But I didn't. I would have liked to ask her what we would say to the parent who called up to complain that we let their child go outside with just a sweatshirt on because they were unaware that the child got on the bus without a coat. But I didn't. I would have liked to ask her if she would go outside without a coat when the temp was 23°, feels like 17°. But I didn't. I would have liked to tell her that she had no common sense and her child was spoiled because of it. But I didn't.

Instead I told her that she would have to speak to the principal. I have no idea what the outcome of that conversation was. I forwarded the call and got my coat on to go home.

Friday, December 4 - When You Can't Let Them See You Laugh

I may do a lot of griping about my job, but there are some times when I am forced to hold back the laughter and handle the situation at hand. Especially with the students.

For instance when -

The bell is going to ring in 10 minutes and a chubby little 3rd grader with frizzy blond hair and pink glasses comes into the office and stands in front of my counter with a lovely turquoise shoe in one hand and the heel in another -

“The nurse said she can’t fix this and I should come to the office.”

And I, trying not to laugh, because I’m not sure what the nurse wants me to do about it, invite the child around to the back of my desk and we proceed to go through my desk looking for something that will fix this shoe. I find tacks and staples, paper fasteners, and paperclips, and each time she shakes her head and I can see that this is so not funny to her. We finally decide that the way to go is with masking tape. I pull off a couple of pieces long enough to secure the heel to the shoe at least, we hope, long enough to get home. We agree that we have just invented “Shoe Band-Aids”.

Or when -

Fourth grade recess is just about over and the nurse brings in a student, 4th grade boy, with an ice pack on his ear. She tells him to go around the counter so he can tell me why he is here to see the principal –

Dead serious and without a tear he says, “There’s this girl in my class and she’s been yelling at me and poking me and I’ve been putting up with it until now. This time she went too far and tried to pull off my ear.”

And definitely when -

One of the fifth grade classes is having a “healthy snack” party that they earned for something or other. The teacher calls and says he is sending one of the girls to the office to see the principal. She has been picking up the boys in the class – that is grabbing them and lifting them off the floor. When she gets to the office she marches up to the counter and tells me that she’s here to see the principal. He is in with a teacher so I ask her to sit down and wait.
Minutes go by and she asks me if he knows that she’s here to see him. I tell her that he knew she was coming. Ten more minutes go by and she’s been fidgeting the whole time. When I tell her to stop the fidgeting she jumps up and demands

“Well I want to know just who he’s in there with and if he knows that I’m missing my party!”

Friday, November 28 – May I Have Your Attention Please

This being the week of Thanksgiving also meant that we had Parent/Teacher Conferences and a single session day on Wednesday. On single session days I, the school clerk, get to control the dismissal bells. I also get to make any announcements regarding the bus order, which was the case on Wednesday. I got a call from Transportation alerting us that our normally late bus, Bus 5, would be early, and our regular buses, Bus 20 and 24, would be late. This meant letting the staff and students know what the changes were. How to keep that from being confusing!

So, before it was time for the first bell, I picked up the mike and made the announcement. I thought it was pretty clear, but the teachers with bus duty who were waiting in the office were commenting about whether or not that was going to be understood. These are 3rd, 4th, and 5th students we're dealing with.

I looked around – the principal was not in the office – so I said "do you want me to make sure" – they said "yes".

Mike in hand again -

"This is a test. (Pause)

Those of you who ride on bus 5 raise your hand. (Pause)

Now look at your teacher and tell them which bell you're using today. (Pause) (Pause)

The correct answer is the first bell."

And with laughter in the background, I pulled the bell.

We only had one misguided bus 20 student who came down at the first bell and no missed buses for the day. It worked!

When the teachers came to sign out some of them were chuckling about that "test". One fourth grade teacher said that one of his students went pale and said "she can't see us, can she", to which he calmly said, "if I were you and on bus 5, I'd raise my hand."

Friday, November 21 – Hello, Operator

Does anyone remember what a telephone is? I mean a real telephone, the kind with the spiral cord? Well if you're over the age of 10 you probably do, but I'm beginning to wonder about those who are under 10.

When my children were younger we used to worry that they would never learn math because of calculators, or that they wouldn't know how to tie their shoes because of Velcro, and telling time would be difficult unless it was a digital clock. I have to honestly say that the telephone is headed in that direction.

In our office at school we have phones on our desks (behind counters) which have a multitude of buttons and lights and that all-familiar spiral phone cord which keeps us chained, um, I mean close to our desk. We also have a phone attached to our copy machine which doubles as our fax. This phone is your traditional beige push-button phone. It sits on a counter across the room.

When students need to call home for something, their teacher will send them to the office to use this phone. They are not allowed to use the teachers' phone or their own cell phones, if they have them, and believe me, more of them have them than have not these days, and no child is putting their little paws or breathing on my phone. So, when that book report or sneakers are forgotten, when "their mom doesn't know they have afterschool choir practice" (even though we assure them that mom signed the permission slip), or when they've dumped their lunch on themselves, they come to use that phone.

Now there are some rules about using that phone. The music teacher does not allow her students to call home for forgotten instruments. They are not allowed to call home about play dates. You must leave a message on the answering machine and not just hang up due in part to caller ID at home and parents panicking when they see that the school has called and no one left a message. And, if there are any changes in how they are getting home, one of us in the office must actually speak to the parent (which means touching the phone that the grubby hands and breathing…… I think you will get the picture.)

But what I have found quite interesting is the number of students who come up to use the phone and have no idea how to. Come on now! It used to be that you didn't get out of Kindergarten unless you knew your phone number and how to dial it! If the phone is not portable or a cell phone they don't get it.

I have had students come up to use the phone and tell them that it's over there on the counter and they have no idea what I am talking about. It's not in a cradle, it's not cordless, and it certainly cannot fit into your pocket.

Better yet are the ones who do pick up the receiver and put the mouthpiece to their ear and the earpiece to their mouth with the cord draped over the top of their head. Yes, it's true and it's happened more than once.

Then they have to make the call. It would surprise you to know how many children do not even know their telephone number. I'm talking about children in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. Part of that is owed to the fact that mom and dad each have a cell phone, they themselves have a cell phone, and some households do not have land lines anymore. (Which always makes me wonder what those people do when there is an emergency in their home – but that's for another time and another place.) And then there's speed dialing when grandma is #2, Dad's work number is #3, etc.

So I will look up the phone number in our school emergency directory and hand it to them on a post-it. If they say that they know it I will ask them to tell me first. You do not have to dial the area code of the area you are in, and they don't know this, which is why I ask them to tell me the number – so I can tell them not to use the area code.

Yesterday a third grader came up to use the phone. She had forgotten her parent pick-up note and wanted to call mom. I asked her if she knew mom's number.


"Tell me what it is."


"Okay, good. The phone is over there. (OMG she doesn't see it) Over there on the counter (she still doesn't see it) The beige thing with the buttons (okay, good, she found it…….why is she staring at it) Pick up the receiver (OMG she doesn't know what that is) The thing with the cord on it (she picks up the whole phone) The thing on top with the curly cord (okay good, she picks it up...... why is she staring at it again) You have to press the buttons to make the call, remember your number (she presses 9085555555… geez, the damn area code, the phone starts making that screechy noise with the message I can hear across the room IF YOU'D LIKE TO MAKE A CALL PLEASE HANG UP THE PHONE AND DIAL AGAIN) Sweetie what is your number?"


"Okay, that's all you have to dial, hang up the phone and try again (why is she staring at me) You have to hang up the phone to try again (OMG she's crying now) Don't cry, just put the thing in your hand down where you found it and then pick it up and try again (She's staring and crying now) Honey, just start from the beginning and push the buttons like you did before without the 908 and remember to leave a message if the answering machine comes on)."

At which point my phone rings. When I pick my head up she's headed for the door.

"Did you talk to mom."

"Yes, I told her that I forgot my note."

"Is she going to bring one in for you?"

"No, she's going to e-mail my teacher." (Which is only good if the teacher is actually in school that day and can read their e-mail, but I'll have the teacher remind the parent of that.)

And she runs out of the room. Seconds later I hear that screech again……..IF YOU'D LIKE TO MAKE A CALL……….look over at the phone and the receiver is laying up and down on the face of the phone, nowhere near the cradle.

But at least her shoe laces were tied.

Friday, November 14 - Pediculosis

The word of the week is Pediculosis, and before you go looking it up, it means Head Lice. We tend to find out about this in various ways and this week it was while I was retrieving the absence messages.

"Hello, my son …….. in Mrs………..'s class will not be in school today because he has, because, because of head lice."

Step 1: Forward the message to the nurse (scratch my head)

Step 2: Tell the secretary so we can get the notices in mailboxes (she scratches her head, I scratch again)

Step 3: Tell the principal (we scratch again)

Step 4: Call Transportation to have them wash down bus, get seating chart (scratch some more and listen to them tell you you're making them itchy)

Step 5: Page the custodian to remove and bag carpet, stuffed animals, etc. Provide teacher with garbage bags for students to put their lunch boxes, coats, and backpacks (scratch some more, using both hands)

Step 6: Nurse notifies the staff via e-mail (virtually everyone who walks into the office is now scratching and complaining of being itchy)

So this is how it goes for the next two weeks. The students in the offending class will have their heads checked. The students on the same bus with the lousy student will have their heads checked. Various teachers/staff members will also have their heads checked regardless of their proximity to the offending classroom or any of the students.

I have to say that this parent who called in was very brave. She definitely did the right thing which is more than can be said about some of her peers.

It appears that this mother was seen by a teacher in the grocery store the night before she called in to report the head lice. The mom was buying the stuff you need to treat it and she was overheard saying that she wished that the school nurse would check the students' heads so that this could be stopped. Apparently she was aware of other families who were having the same problem.

Our teacher immediately piped up and asked the mom which school the child attended and it was ours. Our teacher told the mom that the school nurse does indeed check the students heads if she is aware that they need to be checked (someone has to report it, there's no such thing as random head checking). Our teacher encouraged the mom to call the nurse in the morning to let her know what was going on.

When our nurse did call back the mom who left the absence message, knowing about the grocercy store conversation prompted her to ask the mom if she knew of any other students. The mom said yes, but was unwilling to name names. Our nurse asked her to contact the parents and have them contact the school so that we could avoid the spread of these little buggers.

Not one called. So hopefully, we will be done with this in 2 weeks. In the meantime there'll be a whole lot of itchin' goin on!

And I have to close with this –

Our principal came into the office at the end of the day snickering. He said "you see what I have to deal with." He told us that a third grader had come up to him and told him that he was very lucky. When he asked the student why he thought he was lucky the student told him…..

"Don't you know there's head lice in the school?"


"Well you're lucky because you're the most protected. You're bald."

Okay, you can stop scratching now!

Friday, November 7 - In-School Election Results

Our students had an election of their own on Tuesday. After attending a special class with the Enrichment teacher over the last week, they were going to be choosing a theme day that the whole school can participate in. The choices were: Wild West Day, Hawaii Day, and Disney Day.

We thought for sure that Disney Day would be the winner, but we were wrong. They chose Hawaii Day. Now the Principal will have to choose the date for this day.

We looked up information on the internet about Hawaii to help him out and found out that May 1st is a special day in Hawaii. May 1st falls on a Friday this year which would make it a good day for a "Theme Day." The Hawaiian equivalent of May Day is Lei Day in which the Lei is celebrated.

One of our 5th grade teachers has come up with a slogan for our theme day: "Welcome to S........ B.......... School - Where Everyone gets Lei'ed".

I think we'll be looking for another date!

Friday, October 31 - Happy Halloween

The man who delivers the interoffice mail for our school district is also a bus driver. He usually comes in mid-morning with the mail from the other schools. He's a might curmudgeonly and you can barely get a "hello" out of him most of the time. Here is our conversation from yesterday.

"So R......., are you dressing up for Halloween tomorrow?"


"What are you dressing as?"

"A bus driver ............................................. and I hope all my passengers dress up as Casper so they'll all disappear."

Did I mention he does the high school route?

Friday, October 24 - Notes to School

One of my jobs as the school clerk is to handle the absence notes. It's also my job to handle all the daily changes in dismissal, be it issuing a bus pass, or adding the student's name to the parent pick-up list, or keeping track of who is attending what Brownie or Girl Scout meeting on that particular day.

These notes are brought to the office, along with lunch account payments and class attendance sheets, and deposited in either of two wire baskets on my counter. One is solely for lunch money, and the other holds attendance and notes. It says that on each basket – LUNCH or ATTENDANCE and NOTES. Most of the students are savvy enough to figure it out, but there are those who walk in and stand there holding the papers in their outstretched hand. I'll show them the baskets and they walk away happily knowing that they have made the delivery.

Occasionally, a teacher without a homeroom will walk in and present me with an errant note that has been found on the floor in the hallway. Unfortunately, they too have been known to stand there with the paper in their outstretched hand. Now I know they can read because they have obviously read the piece of paper in their hand and know that it is not just a piece of litter, but I bite my tongue and calmly point to the correct basket. I'm sure they walk out mumbling under their breath "Bitch".

All notes and attendance are supposed to be in the office by 9 a.m., so at that point I begin to sort the items in the baskets. I sift through the note basket for lunch money envelopes and get them into the right basket for the cafeteria lady to pick up. Then I take out the attendance sheets and do the daily attendance. Lastly, comes the notes.

I'm sure you've heard the excuse for students not having their homework "my dog ate it." Well, sometimes, I wish the dog would have finished eating some of these notes. Bad enough that I actually have to physically handle all of them (I have thought about wearing gloves and a mask for this), I also have to file them in the correct place. The bus pass requests and pick-up changes go into my daily folder. The absence notes go into a file in my desk. What's that you say? They don't go to the nurse? Oh no. My nurse doesn't want them. She doesn't want them unless they're a note from a doctor. So they are filed in my desk. The sick notes. The notes from every child who has had a headache, toothache, cold, sore throat, earache, stomach ache, diarrhea, fever, flu, bronchitis, asthma, etc. God only knows what I have brewing in that desk drawer. One thoughtful parent this week put the note into a plastic zip lock sandwich bag……..because the dog really took a bite out of it! It's nice how they had enough time to find a plastic bag but not a new piece of paper!

These notes come in all shapes and sizes. I get everything from the 1x2 inch post-it notes, to whatever the parent can find to write on. Earlier this week I got a note scribbled on a white napkin. The kind you get from a fast food restaurant. The funny thing is that this afternoon that same mom brought in another note on a brown napkin. I asked her where this one was from. She told me she thought that it was Taco Bell. She said the white one from the other day was from MacDonalds. Now I believe in "Going Green" but this might be taking it a little too far.

Then there's the deciphering part. A note reads "To Whom it May Concern, Please send aksir home on the bus 15 today" signed by someone who writes in a foreign language that I am not fluent in. This is not good in many ways. No teacher name, no decipherable student or parent name. The only information I have to go by is the bus number. I like puzzles, but not this kind. It will probably take me until lunch time to figure this one out.

Going back to that note let me say that I can't understand why a parent would write a note to the school and begin it "To Whom it May Concern". Do you think it's because they don't remember the teacher's name? I can tell you that the answer to that is yes more often than you would think. (I can also tell you that sadly, they often don't know the bus number and if it's a dad, he probably doesn't know either.)

Sometimes we get emergency notes faxed in. We got a fax this week that read:

"To the School Office,
Please send B….. home on the bus today. He should not go to aftercare. Also, please make sure that he gets his cell phone back from aftercare. It is a $400 phone and I need it back. Please remind B….. to bring home his science book so he can study for his test. "

If I could respond to this parent I would say – B….. is in 5th grade. B……. knows that students may carry cell phones but are not allowed to use them to play games in school or aftercare which is why it was confiscated. If B…….. was responsible enough to carry a $400 cell phone then he should be responsible enough to carry in a note for a bus pass and not have you have to fax one in every day this week. B……. has a teacher who I'm sure reminds all the students to take their books home to study for tests.

But the note that made me laugh this week was as follows:

"Mr. ………, Please have C…….. take home the bus today"

I sure hope that C……… has a place to park that bus and remembers to bring it back tomorrow!

Friday, October 17 - Classroom Pets

This week I had a conversation with a fifth grade teacher:

"I'm thinking of getting a pet for my classroom. Can I have a pet in my classroom?"



"Just kidding. What kind of pet were you thinking of?"

"Something soft and cuddly. My doctor has a cat in his office. How about a cat?"

"I don't think so. Get a hamster or a gerbil?"

"No, they remind me of a mouse. Maybe I'll get a turtle."

"You can't have a turtle because they carry salmonella. Ask the nurse."

"Oh no? No turtles?"

"Yes, no turtles. Why don't you get a hedgehog?"

"A hedgehog! Hedgehogs aren't soft and cuddly. They have spikes."

"And a turtle is soft and cuddly? Get a fish. Someone here had a fish tank they were giving away."

"I want to give the students a responsibility. I don't think fish are enough of a responsibility. Are you sure I can't have a cat? Even if I keep the door closed? My doctor has a cat and they keep it in the office with the door closed."

"Oh yeah. I bet your doctor has mice, or he had mice."

"No. He doesn't have mice. They have a nice cat that stays in the office."

"Wait a minute. What kind of a doctor keeps a cat in the office?"

"You weren't supposed to ask that question." (She says as she's backing out the door.)

"Oh no? Come on. What doctor are you talking about?"

"My vet."