Students at the elementary level have a lot of gas…like a lot a lot. Thinking about it, it’s probably not that much more than middle or high school age, they simply don’t have the body control or the social acumen yet to realize when the proper times and where the proper locations are for releasing it. Gas is something that all elementary teachers deal with on a daily basis, but there are three times I can remember that really stood out to me.
All names have been changed to protect the innocent…except Mr. Peters…that’s his actual name.
Mr. Peters and the Nuclear Fallout
Our janitor at the school is named Mr. Peters. He is an elderly African American gentleman who quietly goes about the building. When he is interacting with the students at the school, he is almost always gentle, kind, and patient. I have really only seen one time in an interaction with a student when this was not the case.
We had a set of twins named Rick and Rob at the school. I worked with both of them for the year that they were at the school. However, one time stands out. I had a group of eight students, Rob among them, working with me in the teachers’ lounge which doubled as my reading intervention room. Rob was always gassy but today was on a different level. The problem is that not only is it gross but it is also a huge distraction and time waster. So finally, I said, “Listen, if you really have to do that, you don’t even have to ask me. Just get up and walk into the hallway and come back. Give it ten seconds to clear out before you start walking back though.” About five minutes later, Mr. Peters was walking down the hallway and stepped into the doorway of the lounge to ask me a question. It just so happened that at that moment, Rob felt the urge. So he jumped up out of his chair, ran to the doorway, stood right next to Mr. Peters, and let it rip.
The look of shock and horror on Mr. Peters face is something that I will never forget as long as I live. It was the first, and the last time for that matter, that I ever heard him raise his voice at a student. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” The shock on Mr. Peters face was matched by the shock on Rob’s face at hearing Mr. Peter’s shout. “Well Mr. Steidl told me if I had to fart again that I should go into the hallway!” “WELL YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO STAND RIGHT NEXT TO ME WHEN YOU DID IT!” To this day, whenever the issue of a gassy student comes up in Mr. Peter’s presence, he just looks at me, shakes his head, and says, “There’ll never be one as bad as the twin.”
Dynamite Comes in Small Packages
It always amazes me that so much gas can come out of such small bodies. I remember working with this tiny little first grade girl. She probably weighed all of about 35 pounds. We were working on letters and letter sounds in a group of probably five students. She at least had the decency to do what she had to do silently. But they were powerful. The kind of powerful that leaves your eyes watering. Every time it happened, the kids would all look around and then pull their shirts over their noses. Finally, one boy said, “My God who is that?!?!” To which four of the students said, “Not me!!!!” The little girl looked straight at me with a pleading look on her face and said, “I can’t even lie, it’s been me the whole time. I just can’t keep them in! I feel like I’m gonna float into the ceiling if I do!”
Don’t Drink the Water…well Milk Actually
My first year of teaching, I was working in our second grade classroom with a teacher named Ms. Dworkin. We were both first year teachers working on figuring this whole teaching thing out. I got into the classroom second period and stayed for two full periods which was a total of 90 minutes. The classroom was on the basement floor of the school and for some reason was not equipped with any kind of fan. The lack of air movement became most apparent right around 9:15 every morning. The room would simply fill with this horrible stench that enveloped any and all living creatures within its confines. In the fall, we mitigated it by opening windows and doors but once the Northeast Ohio winter hit, that became impossible. I should have bought stock in Glade air fresheners in the fall because Ms. Dworkin and I would go through the classroom with one in each hand like Rooster Cogburn in True Grit just spraying fresh linen or lavender freshness on everything. However the stench remained. It was the kind of pervasive smell like when people smoke weed. Like they spray cologne or Axe or Febreeze to try to cover it up but in the end just end up smelling like whatever they sprayed…and weed.
Ms. Dworkin and I simply could not figure out who the culprit was. Until one day a student came into class with a note. It read, “Please do not allow student to drink the milk at lunch. He is very lactose intolerant and it gives him indigestion and gas.” The light went on. The next morning at breakfast I walked in to see this student with three empty cartons of chocolate milk in front of him. I said, “Woah woah woah, you can’t drink those! You know what they’ll do to you.” He looked up at me and said, “I know but they’re sooooooo goooooood!”