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!”