Folks who don’t work in schools really don’t understand the ins and outs of a usual school day. They can’t fathom some of the truly strange things that happen regularly and the bizarrely fantastic stuff that happens on occasion. And honestly, even as a teacher in a school, you don’t know the full scope of what the administration and office staff see.
In my new position, I occasionally have the honor and responsibility of covering a particular building in the district if one of my colleagues as me when they are out. For example, on any particular day, one of the principals of an elementary school or the kindergarten center will need to be out of the building for professional learning or something personal and they will ask me or one of the other directors to “substitute” for the day.
Most of the time when I have covered a building, it has been routine. Nothing crazy happens and I’m happy to say things run smoothly, but other times that isn’t necessarily the case; you simply can’t predict the needs of kids on any particular days.
Of course, I’m lucky that all of my colleagues have great people they work with and when these challenges arise, there are plans in place to ensure that everything is handled with minimal disruption to the rest of the building. However, every time I step into one of their offices and a walkie-talkie or some other official badge is passed along, I’m nervous that I’ll have to help avert something I am not expecting.
The last time, for example, there was a routine recess incident where two students were playing and one fell. Our nurse is simply amazing and when the child came upstairs she was right on the case. She had ice on his head and she was talking to him to try to figure out what had happened. And then things turned. She called me in after he started throwing up as she was concerned that he may have a concussion. The parents had already been called and were on their way (because she understands and follows protocol), but they wouldn’t arrive at the school fast enough.
In only moments, the secretaries were calling central to inform them an ambulance would be coming and the nurse would be traveling with the little boy to the nearest children’s hospital while I waited patiently to hear they arrived okay and that the parents were on the scene. Then I could go pick up the nurse at the hospital and we could do the appropriate paperwork.
The paramedics did arrive and the student was an absolute champ. He wasn’t frightened and the nurse made sure he felt safe and comfortable. All the while, there was another sick student on the cot who had a fever whose mommy was coming to pick her up too.
On routine days, I have the pleasure of roaming from classroom to classroom, enjoying the energy of the children with their teachers. When you teach in high school, it is a very different experience than being around 5 year olds who still love coming to school—and why wouldn’t they! Every day is cool learning and singing about learning and dancing. They play and they interact and it is a joyful experience for all.
On this day, I was truly nervous about doing something wrong. Of course, I was in touch with my friend who is the principal, but the nurse really did have it all under control. My only real job was to stay calm and help everyone else stay calm too which isn’t as easy as it may seem in a situation like this.
Ironically, everything was okay and kind of quiet in the office while we waited to hear back from the nurse, but as soon as I left to go pick her up there were a bunch of kids who ended up needed the nurse! The office staff was ready to help though and they took care of it all. Two nosebleeds that were completely unrelated, another sick child who ended up going home with a fever and a couple of other crazy things that I don’t remember the details of. The secretary did a great job taking all of the notes the nurse needed though to follow up appropriately!
By the time we returned to school, it seemed several crises were averted and all of the children were being dismissed for the day. Some got on the bus as they were supposed to the walkers were picked up, just as they were supposed to be. Despite the emergency we had to attend to, the rest of the school went off without any other problems which again is a testament to the professionalism and preparedness of the staff.
Although I have seen many strange things in the classroom, none of it really compares to the kinds of experiences I’ve had since switching roles.
What is the strangest thing you have experienced as a classroom teacher or school leader or educational professional? Please share.
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.