The other afternoon during my lunch break – the thirty minutes minus whatever additional time I need to spend at my lunch duty in the cafeteria herding all the second and sixth graders to recess – I was in my classroom eating with a coworker of mine. Mr. H is also a new teacher at my school and at my same grade level so it is nice to lunch with him and bounce ideas off each other.
I had just finished my vanilla Greek yogurt topped with fresh blackberries and sprinkled with granola when a student of mine came in escorted by a teacher who was on recess duty. No good was to come of this, but at the time I had no idea how “no good” it was to become.
This particular student, well lets just say is challenging, and so I was not very impressed that he was sent back to the classroom for the duration of his recess (and my lunch time).
But it was much more complicated than that.
Apparently, completely separate from the reason he was removed from the playground, he had stepped in something most foul (read: dog poo). I noticed it went I went over to where he was, sitting by the door, legs stretched out, crying and angrily muttering in his home language. His low top black Converse knockoffs had streaked the fecal matter across the linoleum in two long lines and somehow he had managed to plaster a smear or two on a lower section of the wall. It was completely unintentional. He was simply upset for getting in trouble and had no idea what he had tracked in.
I took a deep breath and informed him of the situation.
I gave him a squirt bottle of cleaner and lots of paper towels and asked him to tackle the floor.
I took his shoe over to the sink and cleaned off the bottom of his shoe. Shoe tread and dog poo are not a good combination. Surprisingly enough I did not feel all that grumpy about it as I tried to dig most of the poo from the multiple shoe crevices with my fingernails (mental note: keep an old toothbrush under the sink in the classroom).
I cleaned. He cleaned. I told him that I had done this many times before for my own children (all the time thinking in my head that I knew for a fact that he had no one at home that would clean the bottom of his shoes for him). While we cleaned he calmed down and was able to talk to me about the altercation on the playground. It was easier for him, I think, to have something to do , something to look at and focus on while he talked. I listened and said nothing.
He washed his hands. I washed my hands. He refused to sit at his desk and instead lurked by the door. I washed my hands again and then squirted hand sanitizer for extra measure.
I finished my lunch as if I had not just moments before had fecal matter under my fingernails.
The bell rang.
and it was business and usual.