Pick Your Nose–We’re Out of Tissues

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 7.20.26 AMI’m out of tissues and hand sanitizer. Students are mad. I see this.

“Miss, got any tissues?” I keep forgetting to bring in a new box–I have my stockpile on my homesteading shelf in my basement. Someone needs to text me at 5AM when I plan such things.

“No, sorry.” Huff. Stomp.

I share. I’m generous. But sometimes I wonder why it’s my job to provide things for…my job. I can afford tissues. There was a time when I couldn’t. There was a time, teaching, when I ran my household on a $30 grocery budget for a household of four and still had to have supplies for my class. For two years in the middle of the biggest recession I’ll ever see, a few years after taking out 25K in graduate loans and cutting my salary in half for the privilege.

Thankfully, those days are gone, but not for every teacher–I see the newest teachers stocking their classrooms because they want them to be the utopias students deserve–I see when they put themselves in debt. Balance is important, teacher burnout is the highest out of any career. Teachers need balance. That extends to financial balance as well. It’s something that’s tough for teachers. But I have well over two hundred students–some years as few as 150–and most days several of them sound like this:

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 7.19.58 AM“Miss, got a band-aid?”

“Miss, I don’t have a pencil.”

“Miss, got any tissues?”

“Where’s the paper?”

“Miss, got any hand sanitizer?”

Sometimes, when I am well supplied, I share. Other times not so much. If I gave every student who asked me for a pencil a pencil each time they asked, I’d be giving out a lot of pencils. Hundreds of pencils. I knew of a teacher who marked down on her teacher evaluation because a student didn’t have a pencil. This is serious.The fact that students don’t have a pencil–and maybe that I forgot the tissues–can now affect my career. I literally give out thousands of pencils. Sometimes I feel like a game show.

“You’re awake, you win a pencil!!!”  I needed to reduce this amount. I feel strongly about not killing the rainforest, but also about personal responsibility. I’ve worked for twenty years, coming prepared every day. It’s important. I try to teach this to students. I got an idea.

I invented the Crayon of Shame. I got a little bucket, into which I put crayons, broken pencils, and the types of colored pencils that are really hard to write with. Then, I said, “No,” really loud, “I DON’T have a pencil. But you can have the crayon of shame.” That helped increase preparedness for a while–no one wants the crayon of shame, and I purposely picked things that didn’t write smoothly. That wouldn’t be a pleasure to use.  After a while, the crayon of shame became a badge of honor. So I tried something new. “I’ll rent you a pencil for ten points.” I don’t usually take the points, but I make a big theatrical deal about it, Shakespearian-style. All the world’s a stage…and a particularly big one when making fun of kids. Kids without pencils whining because they used the last handful of my tissues.

Sometimes there is a propensity, in student land, to waste resources. It’s true. Mr. I Took Eighty Kleenexes or Student Who Loses A Pencil a Day may not sound like a big deal until you realize half a rainforest and a week’s salary goes into replacing all this stuff. I feel strongly about sustainability. I don’t know the exact amount of trees I have to kill to make enough kleenexes for 250 students, but it’s a lot. In my personal household, I try not to waste resources. My son didn’t know what a paper towel or napkin was until recently, and he’s six.

I guess it’s hard to waste resources in schools because schools so seldom have resources, but it’s still something to be aware of either way. Maybe next year, I’ll embroider handkerchiefs as my gift to each student. I can make them slightly by tweaking this “How to Make Napkins” craft board on Learnist by Project Runway’s Melissa Fleis. Sure, it’s about napkins, but I bet it’d work for handkerchiefs, too.

But for now, I tell them to pick their nose, we’re out of tissues.

“What?” I say, “Okay, fine. Go to the lav. Remember to wash your hands. Research says 70% of people don’t wash their hands.” I always wreck a good time with research. It’s my job. But shopping for supplies for my job, I fear, is not.

I really hope, in all this ed reform, someone budgets for a box of tissues. Because not only do I have to blow my nose once in a while, but I often have to cry.

 

[images: artteachershateglitter.com and lifeofkaylen.blogspot.com]

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13 thoughts on “Pick Your Nose–We’re Out of Tissues

  1. The kids have to provide supplies at the beginning of the year at my daughter’s school. The teacher keeps a community stockpile and it seems to work out well. On occasion, we’ll get an email asking that more be sent. It’s a public school with a majority of the population on reduced lunches. We have a pretty good support community here, though, so that helps a lot.

  2. I have felt your pain. It’s amazing how that kid who never has a pencil can get on your last nerve. I often wish I had kept track of the money I spent on pencils, notebooks, tissues, band-aids, food, and supplies.
    One of my colleagues gave out pencils, but he required the student to give him a shoe for the remainder of the period. Pencil returned, shoe returned.
    I am now retired with an abundance of money because I no longer have to provide all this stuff for students…. (lol not really)

  3. If only the public knew!! This is one of those crazy things that- unless you’ve worked in a school- it’s hard to ‘truly’ comprehend! The amount of instructional/ planning time lost to figuring these things out and the amount of guilt felt by teachers- insanity!!! I agree, I hope someone (at the top) thinks to budget for tissues…

    • My nurse now gives little baggies of band aids. Which is helpful. Kids always want band aids. I tell them if there is no blood, it makes no difference, but they love them anyway.

  4. Love the crayon of shame! I am so stealing that idea!
    Our school used to ask parents to send in a box of tissues at the beginning of the year. Now we are told we can no longer ask parents for thing that the school should be providing…Except that they don’t! So now, as you said, the teacher has to supply it. Pencils!!! The bane of my existence.

    • I go back and forth on this. Sometimes, “Sure,” other times I feel that it symbolizes issues larger than than the piece of wood with graphite that it really is… I’m very theatrical about the whole thing, “Whoooo can lendddd this scholarrrrr a writinggg utennnsssilllll so he can be a succeessssss in liiiiifffffeeeeeee?”

  5. Thank you for blogging this issue. Believe it or not, college professors face a similar classroom dynamic/dilemma… maybe because students arrive in our classrooms expecting similar “service” they received in high school. I have a huge student loan debt burden, earn less than many high school educators and *still* purchase materials for my students and for my classes to make my pedagogy work properly. It isn’t that I live in a cess-pit of resentment, but I find myself wishing that the general population understood … even just a little bit … why teachers burn-out of our careers faster than any other group.

      • Would love to talk more on this. I got inserted into Asian history doing a really fascinating project–the goal was to validate the history of a martial art. Of course, as a historian, I couldn’t…there was no substantiation, only a pattern I’d seen in other arts. My first field was Russian history, and Asian was a large leap. I called an undergrad professor. He guided me. I started studying languages (I like languages anyway), and I really made a shift I loved into these areas… Not a shift, really, I just found a great area… I’d love to read your stuff on this…

  6. What a small world! I’ve located your FB page and send you a friend request (Christienne Hinz). I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog posts, and would love to talk more on history, education, family, and other shtuff we seem to have in common!

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