Sticky Fingerprints, Boogery Papers, & Nasty Homework Folders

Posted by debraallenellis July 1, 2017

I’m a teacher who goes to school, ready to teach kids, with a smile on my face and a spring in my step every . . . um . . . most days. The kids? They come to school every day, ready to sit still, listen, and learn. Right? Yeah . . . well . . . it’s . . . something . . . sorta . . . like that. You may know what I’m talking about here, because I’ll bet you’ve met some of ‘em before—kids, I mean. Wink


"Miss Ewwis . . . umm . . . somehow . . . I dunno . . . my homework . . . well . . . it didn’t get done."


If you're a Facebook (FB) "friend" of mine, and you've actually read anything I've ever posted there, you've already been introduced to some of my classroom escapades with students. So, any reservations I may have regarding student behavior and work habits or my own ability to impart knowledge on them probably doesn't surprise you in the least. Thankfully, though, you'll often find the scene to be as you would probably expect—regularly scheduled teaching and learning progressing along, as planned in advance. BUT, you need to keep in mind that none of that happens naturally—everything that happens in a classroom is carefully and precisely designed—routines and procedures must be painstakingly calculated so the classroom runs like a finely oiled machine. The stage must be perfectly set and it's a beautiful thing to behold in that glorious moment. Then, the first morning bell rings, sleepy kids walk through the door, and the remainder of the day becomes . . . well . . . a crapshoot. {#emotions_dlg.grinmacing}  Just kidding—kind of.



Specifically, I'm a second grade teacher and, by "teacher," of course, I mean nurse, cheerleader, mother, grandmother, counselor, friend, and holder of countless germ-encrusted items on the playground for pocketless children who are running around and screaming like wild banshees. I've been doing this for 15 years and have been in second grade the entire time.


"My homework is awmost finished . . . weawwy . . . I pwomise . . . dis time."


You may not know this, but there is actually a lot more to teaching than simply hanging out with kids all day. SOME of the items on our daily to-do lists include planning, assessments, data analysis, professional development, conferences, special events, and meetings—to name a few—and we've got to fit in all that around the time we spend teaching, which is why I'm usually up by 4:15 on school mornings. My typical workday averages 12-14 hours—even longer when there's an evening event at school.

Even though my job can be challenging, I'll have to admit that second grade IS a great age to teach. The children are curious, they aren't afraid to take academic risks, they want to learn, they want to please, they aren't yet too cliquish or hormonal, they can tie their own shoes, they can wipe their own bottoms, and they can blow their own noses—mostly.


"Umm . . . sorry . . . I left my homework at home . . . hmm . . . maybe I need a new homework folder . . . you don't even want to know what my cat did . . . RIGHT on there . . . well, it's . . . I don't think HE zactly wanted me to do my homework this week . . . me and him . . . we was just too busy."


Still, some days, I wonder what in the world I was thinking when I decided to enter the realm of education. No kidding—regularly. What is it that keeps me walking back through the heavy front doors of my school every morning? You know—the ones that are covered with all those sticky fingerprints? It's the delightful hearts and minds that are attached to those perpetually dirty hands. I love watching little folks get excited about learning; watching the light bulbs flicker on in their brains as they begin to make connections and understand new concepts. They are so young—so adorable—and, yet, filled with wisdom and insights that astonish me on a regular basis. Lucky me, within the confines of my classroom walls, I spend my days surrounded by an enchanting group of kids, learning from them, laughing with them, wondering with them, crying with them, and seeing the world through their eyes. What a shame everyone isn't as fortunate—of course, I mean, apart from things like boogery papers and such.  {#emotions_dlg.sick}


"But I DID do my homework. It just got sketti all over it. Didn't think you'd want me to turn it in like that."


My purpose in beginning this site is to have a place to share some of the never-ending moments of delight and humor I experience in my classroom on a regular basis, many of which I have been posting on FB for several years. Small moments like these brighten my days and I'm thinking they will do the same for others—those who don't spend the majority of their time with a group of kids—watching them make sense of the world around them—watching them grow up. Some of you have no children in your lives, some of your kids are grown, and some of you are going through difficult family times. Let me assure you that there is nothing better to cheer you than smidgens of honest insight from the mouths of babes. I've spent my days with hundreds of them. It's like medicine for my soul to listen to what they have to say and to learn what they are wondering.

After a few years, all those posts I was sharing on FB started to accumulate, along with others I'd been hoarding, and, now, I consider myself a collector of small moments with my students (like Stumpy the red-tailed squirrel is a collector of treasures she finds in one of our favorite read-aloud books, Cynthia Rylant's Gooseberry Park).


My only regret is that I didn't start this collection years earlier. Too many precious memories have been lost to me, because I didn't take the time to record them somewhere. Children have so much to say, and, even when we think we're too busy, we need to make sure we listen. That's what I try to do. I listen. They are a fascinating bunch of little people, with interesting perspectives of the world that can enlighten, as well as entertain.

As soon as possible after I hear something I want to share, I quickly jot down the gist of it on a sticky note, text it to myself, email it to myself, write it down on the back of a lesson plan, or on the back of my hand—whatever it takes to remember it so that I can post it on FB sometime soon. If a computer hacker ever broke into my email account, he'd think it belonged to a 5-year-old when he found simple subject lines that said things like "puke on shoes," "snot on soap," "poop on floor," or "peeling taste buds." Ah, yes, on a perpetual basis, I am engaged in profound conversations such as these.  Wink


"My homework? Hmm . . . I'm not zactly sure where that went. Ain't you got it already?"


Teaching is a demanding, nerve-wracking job, as I'm hoping you understand from all that whining I did earlier (Spoiler alert—there is sure to be more whining later). Of course, I realize that every profession has its issues, but teaching is the one I know about, so it's the one I get to #&?!$ about. There's a lot more to educating students than imparting knowledge into their innocent young minds, and, sometimes, the obstacles seem insurmountable—making me want to run for the hills. It's only the quality, relationship-building time I get to spend with these little ones that keeps me coming back for more. Without students, I'd probably be working in a quiet, orderly office somewhere; hitting the restroom whenever I felt like it; ready to head out the door at 5:00 p.m., sharp; and desperately trying to figure out the missing meaning and sense of purpose in my life. The engagement I experience with kids all day is like an ongoing antidepressant I.V. drip in the midst of the continual anxiety attack that is my chosen profession. I don't know how school administrators do what they do every day. How do THEY deal with the educational hullaballoo we all must endure, without a steady dose of kids to dull the excruciating pain?


"Dat sticky stuff on my homewok . . .well . . . I fink . . . I'm pwetty shuwa . . . it's da sewwup fwom my waffles." 


(My theory is that kids use homework folders as placemats at home and, later, secretly watch to see who does the best job of grossing out the teacher checking through them. Could even be a betting pool. I don't know, but it's a downright nasty conspiracy some days.)

Let's face it; anything I share about my students is far more engaging than anything I post about my own boring personal life. Nobody wants to know what I had for dinner (unless concocted by my wonderfully talented daughter, the professional chef), where I'm going on vacation (unless you are also planning a trip of your own), what movie I'm watching (unless you're one of my period-drama-junkie-always-looking-for-recommendations friends), or what I think about politics ( {#emotions_dlg.shocked}). The world is a harsh place. We're all tired. We're all worried. The innocence of children can help us escape ourselves for just a wee bit, if only we take time to pay attention. They have no filters; they speak the truth, and it's freakin' adorable.


"Yeah, it was super cwazy, cuz, my mom, she just wouldn't even WET me do my homework!"


Sometimes, though, when I'm driving to school in the morning, just before dawn, and am feeling overwhelmed with all that awaits me in my classroom, I dream of avoiding it all, speeding on down the road, right past the school to start a new life, or turning around, heading back home, jumping back into bed, and hiding from the world under my nice, safe blanket. In those brief moments, I imagine that, possibly, it's not too late to reboot myself and make a change to a more civilized profession—something that doesn't involve syrup, poop, snot, or report cards. I'm an adult after all. I can make my own decisions. I'm the boss of myself, who has every right to chuck this blog that I have no time to write, chuck this teaching job that is stressing me out, chuck all of those disgusting homework folders, etc. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so naïve, diving into a teaching career like I did—actually thinking I could handle it somewhat gracefully. Pretty stupid, huh? Definitely should have considered kinder and gentler careers . . . with unlimited restroom access . . . where my shoes wouldn't stick as I walk across the juice splattered floor . . . where I wouldn't have to wash my hands 300 times per day . . . could've researched other professions a little more . . . maybe . . . just a bit?

PFFT! Who am I kidding?! Welcome to this crazy, wonderful world of mine, one from which I wouldn't trade one small moment . . . usually . . . sorta . . . sometimes. {#emotions_dlg.tongue}


"Wait! What? We had homework?"   {#emotions_dlg.unamused}



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