I know it might be hard for you to picture your old third grade teacher Mrs. Schneider kicking back after school on Friday at the local watering hole with a cold beer, but the truth of the matter is that most teachers do drink. Don’t judge too harshly. It’s a stressful job no matter where you teach. I’ve spoken with teachers in the suburbs, in rural areas, and in urban areas, and most of them agree that kids sometimes drive them to the bottle. It’s not that we don’t enjoy our jobs or love the kids that we teach. It’s just that sometimes a bit of the sauce helps to take the edge off at the end of the week. Or the middle of the week….Or on a Monday night. Whichever.
I’m not going to even get into the really rough stuff that we deal with such as calling Child Protective Services. I also won’t talk about the simple day to day like constantly having to argue with 7 year olds. On a side note, I’ve found that even when I’m at home, I just naturally say everything three times while increasing both the volume of my voice and the articulation of hard consonants with each consecutive repetition. Just a habit I’ve developed because I assume no one hears and/or listens the first two times I say things. So, for the purpose of the blog, I’ll just share a few examples of the day to day life that makes us run to the bottle.
Over the past three weeks especially, our first grade students have had several incidents in which one person has pushed another in line and they fell down like dominoes and there are five kids crying and holding their faces. The mop up duty after these occurrences are particularly annoying because A) there are five kids crying, B) all the kids are angry, and C) there is never a way to definitively get to the initial push. There’s never an answer to who pushed who first that caused the domino effect…until this past week.
Our first grade teacher and I have been concentrating more heavily on the class’ transition periods in the hall. Walking to and from PE, music, lunch, etc. is from where half the problems of the day originate. So Ms. North, the first grade teacher, walks at the front of the line, and I walk at the back. We had arrived safely and without major incident at our destination and were lined up against the wall waiting for their Reading Enrichment teacher to call them into the classroom. I was patrolling back and forth and saw one little boy lean forward and whisper into the girl’s ear in front of her. I said, “Now what could have been so important that you just had to lean forward to talk to her in the hallway?” Immediately his face dropped and he replied, “Nothing.”
The little girl rolled her eyes, shook her head, and said, “He told me to push him again.”…I paused a moment. I said, “You’re going to have to repeat that. I thought you said that he asked you to push him.” “Yeah,” she said, “He asks people to push him so he can fall into other kids and make everybody fall down.” I fixed an icy gaze on the boy and immediately the water works started. “But no one got hurt yet today!” He yelled through tears. And this is why teachers drink. These are the things that waste our time. We have to sort through crying children to find that one kid actually asks others to push him so that he can fall into others and knock everyone down.
So yes, I realize that the root of this word is most commonly used as a noun, as in the pupal casing that envelops most moths and caterpillars or other insect larvae. However, I have started using it as a verb because of our students. Our heating system at the school is very old. It’s a boiler system and not a forced air system so it takes a little while to warm up in the morning. Usually, I allow my students to keep their jackets on for the first 30-45 minutes of each day. After that, the rooms are very warm and the students have to put their jackets in their lockers. This makes it harder for the kleptomaniacs in the room to hide whatever markers, staplers, pencils, coffee mugs, etc. that they’re trying to steal. (Yes, I’ve had students try to steal all those things. I once found a student with 17 highlighters stuffed into the pockets of his coat. Why?…great question. I’m glad you asked and I wish I had an answer.)
However warm the classrooms may be, student still do this thing in which they tuck their arms and hands inside their shirts. All in all, probably not a big deal until they need to write, or turn a page, or move, or do anything other than just sit there. It then turns into them trying to stick just their hand out of the collar of their shirt and bend down to turn the page, or write, etc and then it is a problem. It’s also simply a safety hazard when they have to move. Students in the primary age have not yet mastered the simple art of walking, let alone walking in a line, or walking in a line up and down stairs. They trip and fall a lot. If you have never worked with 25 elementary age students in a group, you probably think I’m exaggerating. Believe me I’m not. So, if a student is cocooning and trips and falls, rather than using his hands to break his fall, he will use his face to do so.
Getting them to stop cocooning is a constant struggle. You might think that it’s not a big deal. However, every year that I’ve taught, I’ve had at least three instances of a student walking with his hands inside his shirt and tripping and falling. However, from the months of October to May, I have no memory of a day in which I have not had to tell at least three students to get their hands out of their shirts. And it’s always an argument. And this is why teachers drink. (On a side note, students are allowed to wear sweaters with their uniforms. I have actually bought students sweaters that they can wear and they refuse because they don’t like them.)
Target Practice and the Poop Bandit
For some reason, the boys bathroom at the school is always a huge problem. For about a two year stretch, there was an unknown student that we began referring to as the Poop Bandit. Although our boys’ bathroom is equipped with five or six perfectly working toilets, this child felt it more comfortable to defecate in the sink. At least twice a month we would find turds in the sink of the boys bathroom. We never found out who it was either. If any other students knew who it was, none of them told us anything.It hasn’t happened at all this year though. But this is why teachers, and janitors, drink.
Our boys bathroom is also equipped with a drain in the middle of the floor. And although it also has about five or six perfectly good urinals, the boys find it fun to stand around the drain and see how far away they can get and still get it in the drain. Obviously it’s a trial and error system so by definition they are going to eventually miss…and they miss a lot. And this is why teachers drink.