Oh, My Sweet Summer Child

, , , , , | Healthy | September 23, 2019

(At the school where I teach, the cafeteria staff has gotten a grant to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to all students two afternoons per week; on this day, the snack is Honeycrisp apples.)

Student: “Are these sweet?”

Me: “Yes; Honeycrisp are really sweet, especially compared to other apples.”

Student: “Well, I’m on a diet and my mom says I’m not supposed to have sugar or sweets.”

Me: “Well, apples are sweet because they’re naturally sweet, not because there’s any sugar added.”

Student: “Yeah, but I’m not supposed to have any sweets. I’ll have something healthier, like chips.”

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Sex Miseducation

, , , , | Learning | September 6, 2019

(My colleague has to teach a group of Year 5 students about puberty and how our bodies are changing.)

Colleague: “Children shouldn’t need to learn about this sort of stuff! They’re too young!”

Me: “How old were you?”

Colleague: *blushing a little* “Nobody ever taught me about sex education. I had to learn through medical textbooks.”

Me: “That seems a pretty odd way to find out about sex. Anyway, [Headmaster] wants you to be creative. Something that catches the children’s attention and let them know that this is serious. They’re growing into adults and they need to know about sex soon.”

Colleague: “But not at ten!”

Me: *shrugs* “He told us to.”

(A couple of days later, I found my colleague arguing with her classroom assistant, pleading for her not to tell the headmaster. When I came in and asked what the problem was, the classroom assistant told me that my colleague had been setting up an animation she found online for the Sex Ed talk. I won’t say which animation it was, but I will say that it is considered possibly the worst animation in the world and DEFINITELY sickening enough to watch. Apparently, the teacher was going to turn it on and make them watch the whole eighty minutes of distorted nightmares while she stood outside the door and pushed anyone back inside. This was because she didn’t want to teach primary school children about sex.)

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The Principal Does Not Respect Books

, , , | Learning | August 27, 2019

(I’m waiting to pick up my cousin from elementary school. I’m passing the teacher’s lounge when I see the new principal. She’s known for being very whiny, like the kids in the school. A pair of student leaders go by, carrying tall stacks of books for their teacher.)

Principal: “Good morning, children.”

(Likely the two students didn’t see her, as the stacks of books they’re carrying obscure their lines of sight. They don’t answer.)

Principal: *in a whiny, high-pitched voice* “Hello! Children! I said, ‘Good morning,’ to you!” *STAMPS HER FOOT like a kid*

Students: *looking nervous* “Good morning, Mrs. [Principal].”

Principal: “That’s better. You should greet your teachers when you see them! That’s so rude of you to walk by without even saying anything!”

(The students were having trouble with the stacks of books and looked like they would like to put them down, but the principal was whining on. I stepped up and helped. Turns out that there was supposed to be a third child, but he ran off to the bathroom, leaving the two struggling with the stacks that were more than they could handle. I wondered at the principal — who was supposed to be taking care of the students in her charge — who was more concerned about getting the respect she thought she was due than the welfare of the kids in front of her!)

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All The Happy Ladies, Now Put Your Hands Up!

, , , , , , , | Hopeless | August 22, 2019

This story takes place at my mum’s school where she is an office worker. Usually, the parents and children are nothing but grumpy and rude to all the staff, especially the office workers. 

However, there was one family who had a lovely little girl with MS. The girl was moving up a year and so had to have a “safe place” where she could go and where she would be accompanied by a buddy. This little girl, upon being told this, started crying with happiness. And when asked, she said, “I can spend time with the happy ladies in the office.” All “the happy ladies” were indeed happy and immediately agreed to make time in their busy schedules to do this. 

At the end of the year, as a thank-you, the family gave each of the ladies a £30 bouquet. This happened a few years ago, but my mum still talks about it, and the girl came back to see them and thank them once again this year.

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When In Doubt, Be Kind

, , , , , , | Learning | August 18, 2019

I work at a public elementary school in an area characterized by opioid addiction and homelessness. I am working closely with one particular student who I know is experiencing homelessness. He lives alone with his mother, who is neglectful and borderline abusive. Whenever he says something about it I send in a report, but there’s nothing I can do beyond that. The school social worker visits their home regularly and is working with his mother on being more present, but I don’t know if that helped at all.

Additionally, though he doesn’t have an official diagnosis, he shows many characteristics of autism and is frequently bullied by his classmates. We have been working together all school year on social-emotional health, finding ways to control his temper and articulate his emotional needs. He has been making incredible progress all year.

For one of our sessions, I decide to play a text-based computer game with him that simulates living in poverty. You have to balance work, rent, health emergencies, and other situations on a very limited budget. In the game, you have a child, and various scenarios regarding your child appear throughout the game; for example, your child is in a play, and you have to choose between going to the play and accepting an extra shift at work for some bonus money.

My student chooses the options that would best benefit the child, every. Single. Time. Even if it costs more money than he can realistically afford, he is so invested that he wants his imaginary child to have the best life possible. When we finish the game, he turns to me and says, “I’m a good dad.”

I still get choked up thinking about this child who had every reason to be angry at the world, but still chose kindness every. Single. Time.

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