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!