There are diplomatic people in this world. People who think about the feelings and reactions of everyone around them. People who weigh their words wisely, who weigh their tone of voice carefully, people who care about how their words are perceived and who are careful to convey a positive, yet accurate message. People like Dale and Shannon, two fellow 5th grade teachers.
Then, there’s Matt, another 5th grade teacher. He’s a person who dutifully responds to every email with a witty comment (or snide remark as the case may be), who sends out mass emails with interesting yet disturbing facts for the staff to think about while they dine at their favorite Chinese hub (like the article about the people who fish old oil out of the gutters and sell it to cheap restaurants to re-use in the food they serve), and FYI’s on how to spot a fake China Yuan (dollar) by holding a black light to the top of the bill to find the water mark (or was the mark the sketched Hitler mustache on Chairman Mao’s upper lip?).
But Matt has a nurturing side too. He teaches his class responsibility the old fashion way. For example, the students wanted a class pet, so naturally, he let them have a turtle. They took great care of it… that is until Chinese New Year. It was the last day of school before break; I worked late; no one else was still at work. I walked into Matt’s class to turn off the computer and noticed the turtle in his tank, all alone. I took him home for the week. No one asked about him until I found a sign taped to my classroom door a few weeks later, which read:
It had my picture under the caption. Oh no. I interfered. The turtle was supposed to die. Responsibility.
Another example: His class also has two hamsters (or is it three… or four now?) One morning, the girls in his class, frantically asked if they could hang a poster on my door. It read:
Underneath of the description was a penciled sketch of something that looked like a balled up piece of paper (I guess that was supposed to be Snowy). They were posting these signs all around the 5th grade hallway. They finally found Snowy in a cubby in the corner of the teacher’s classroom next door. Thankfully they made those posters. The students might not have recognized him otherwise. Maybe they would have thought it was a loose rodent… wait…
Another time, a hamster died. No one cried. There was no funeral. In fact, the students put on rubber gloves and dissected him instead of going to recess. Wait… that was the next day. After he started to stink, they decided to get rid of him, but they did some science on him first.
I thought it couldn’t get any furrier in my co-teacher’s classroom until one day, I walked in and found a rabbit. Yes, a rabbit. A big, soft, brown, long-eared rabbit. A new addition to the zoo. Poor Matt. I can’t really call him my co-teacher anymore. Not until the rabbit’s gone- or potty trained.
I hear a Christmas song coming on… Five GOLD-EN RINGS, Four hamsters hopping, one turtle tapping, one rabbit reeking, and a bird—in-a-blue re-cy-cle-box.
Yes a bird.
Last week Matt’s students brought in a bird with a broken wing that they found during recess. He let them keep it in the classroom for protection for a day before letting him go free. Story has it, two days later, one of the kids cupped the bird in her hands like a scene from the end of an old movie, threw it up in the air and watched it fly… until it came crashing down into the bushes, at which time the kids shrugged at the lifeless bird and went back to class.
Oh the 5th grade hallway.
I’ve noticed another smell in the 5th grade hallway this month, other than the rabbit’s pee. It was my turn to take all the 5th grade classes to recess this week. Even on the field I could smell it, the smell of adolescents sweating grossness. Later in the day, I decided to make a public service announcement to each 5th grade class.
I walked in. The teacher said, “Okay boys and girls. Miss Lyons has something very important that she needs to talk to you about. Please listen to her. Giver her your attention.” Smiling, she said, “Go ahead Miss Lyons.” I said, looking at the eighteen ten year olds, “You stink. Wear deodorant.”
Hands go in the air. “My mom won’t let me. She won’t even let me wear perfume.” “What if my mom says no?” “Where can I buy deodorant?” “What IS deodorant?” To which I replied, “It’s something you wear, so that you won’t stink.”
And leave it to the homeroom teacher to diplomatically explain that they are at a certain age, where they will produce certain smells, and to the girls who were red in the face, she reassured them, “but it’s okay because boys will smell worse.”
“Yea, smelly boys,” I said and wrinkled up my nose, winking at the girls. That’s my diplomacy. That’s as far as goes.
There are diplomatic people. There are purposefully vocal people, and then there are those people who just tell you that you stink. I strive to be that person.