Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Teacher's Many Hats

Other people know that being a teacher is hard, but they don't know exactly why. They might think "kids are obnoxious," or "you have to be too patient," but they don't know the gritty details... so for those of you who were wondering, here they are.

1. Triage Nurse- From the time you pick up your class in the morning, several children are usually already complaining about various ailments and you need to figure out which ones are real and which ones are fake, which ones require the nurse, a call home, or a little TLC in the classroom, and which ones are totally ridiculous. An experienced classroom teacher in his or her role as triage nurse can do the following:

  • Spot a case of pink-eye from 30 feet away.

  • Distinguish between bed bug bites, allergic reactions, and infectious disease.

  • Know who is actually going to throw up and who is faking.

  • See a fever in a child's eyes.

  • Administer treatment of a "drink of water" for ailments such as headaches, sore throats, and stomachaches.

  • Administer the treatment of a "saltine" to children complaining of stomachaches from being hungry.

  • Bandage microscopic paper cuts that you're not sure even exist with mini-bandaids.

  • Use the "is your finger going to fall off?" measure to determine who goes to the nurse and who stays in class.

  • Knows when ice is actually needed.

2. Janitor- For the record, I have already had to clean up urine this week from a child who peed his pants with no warning. He didn't even ask to go to the bathroom. As a teacher in an urban public school, the reality is that you can't rely on the janitorial staff to show up when called. You need to be equipped for the following:

  • blood (on tile, rug, or fabric)

  • urine (on tile, rug, or fabric)

  • juice that spilled in a bookbag and is leaking all over the floor and on another child's jacket.

  • cockroaches

  • mice (and their feces)

  • ketchup (that kids hoarded from lunch and then exploded all over their pocket or something else).

  • spilled milk- it smells if you don't get it all out.

*** I leave vomit for the janitors, but it's a good idea to have scotch tape and some extra chairs handy to cordon off a vomit area and some air freshener so everyone doesn't vomit. Last time I had vomit in the room it took the janitors 45 minutes to respond.

3. Mediator- Kids fight. They do. They often have poor social skills and low self-esteem and get in nasty fights even in the lower grades. As a teacher you need to not only break up the fight, but simultaneously teach them a new social skill to avoid future fights and build up their self-esteem all the while administering stern consequences for their actions. It is a delicate balancing act.

4. Social Worker- Kids and their families need help and sometimes you are the only one who can help them to fill out the forms for services or tell them where to take their children to the doctor for free or how to get their child glasses.

5. ACS worker- While teachers do not work for Child Services, we are often the ones who end up having to decide whether or not to call. As mandated reporters we are REQUIRED by law to report abuse or neglect and could be held accountable if anything happens to a child after we have suspected abuse. As a side note, I am told by children almost weekly that their parents hit them. It is a sensitive matter how to deal with each case and whether or not to call it in. Teachers have to work fast if they notice an injury such as a burn or bruise on a child. We ask the children what happened and I usually have another teacher get the story as well so we can compare answers (in my experience, I have learned that administration cannot be trusted to do this!!!!!). We have to notice patterns of bruising. We have to be delicate with children. We have to be delicate and stern with the parents. I have had to tell them "You need to bathe your child" "You need to clean his/her uniform" "You need to get your child to school in time to eat breakfast." We bear the brunt of parent rage if ACS has indeed been called even if it was by a neighbor or the school nurse. We are often interviewed by ACS workers (who to their credit have HELPED many of my students. None of their visits have resulted in a removal of a child from their home in my experience). In one case, the ACS worker had the abuser (an unwelcome and intimidating relative the family was having a hard time getting rid of) removed from the home and got new bunkbeds for the kids who were sleeping head to toe with their siblings.

6. Full-time secretary- The paperwork and administrative tasks that teachers are responsible could staff a FULL-TIME SECRETARY!!!! I'm not kidding. I really think I have enough to do to employ someone else full time.

7. Teacher- The best part!

No comments: