Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Crampons. Tampons. Let's Call The Whole Thing Off.

Well now, something I haven't had to think about or buy for several months now was mentioned over on Y's blog the other day. Y is possibly the most breathtakingly beautiful woman on the internet anywhere, including celebrities and all the women in any kind of "after" picture, and I wouldn't miss reading her blog for anything short of blood and major surgery. Seriously, I can't stop staring at her, she's so amazingly beautiful. In real life, she'd probably be scared of me because I'd probably stare then, too, and she'd think I was a stalker or a pervert and run screaming. Honest, dear Yvonne, I'm harmless. I just can't stop staring at your beauty. You've got an unattainable level of looks that I never had and never will at this stage. Sigh. So, so beautiful, and so, so cool. Do I love her? Duh. (Not that kind! Honestly, you people!!!)

Anyway. She was talking the other day about tampons, and I have always thought "tampon" was a really funny word. This one time, in band camp back in the middle school, we had a sentence that contained the word "crampon," which has nothing to do with a tampon except for the coincidental rhyming and spelling factor, but which cracked up the whole class anyway, including the teacher, who looked a lot like me before I turned fat. I mean, think about it. "Crampon." If you were fourteen years old, or maybe over fifty, wouldn't you crack up, too? Especially if the sentence read something like this: "When hiking in the snow-covered mountains, don't forget to pack some crampons in case of an emergency."

Crampons. Hahahahahahaha

But I digress.

Y's mention of tampons reminded me of something that happened long ago, before I got my first permanent teaching gig, back when I was subbing and doing a lot of time down in the boiler room of a local elementary school wherein was housed the Special Education class.

I had no special ed training whatsoever, but there I was, 21 years old and expected to run the class, teach a little, and know how to feed, change, diaper, adjust braces, give physical therapy, accommodate, cater, and otherwise do all kinds of things that I had no idea under the sun how to do. They just threw me into the room and closed the door behind me. Thankfully, there were two aides who knew how to run the place; it was just that legally, they needed me there and since I was there, I was expected to help, too. I have no problem with that. I wanted to help. I just didn't know how to help.

But since I was going to be there for two weeks, I knew I'd better LEARN how to help. So I did.

When it was recess time, I had to take the fifteen or so kids who could handle recess out to the playground by myself, because the aides had to stay in the room to take care of the ten or so kids who were strapped to boards and helpless. Yes, they really were. It was a HUGE class and the fact that it was a Special Ed class made the size all the more disgraceful. The students ranged in age from five to 19. What the heck was up with THAT decision? Money, of course. Sigh.

Day one on the playground, a girl grabbed my earring and pulled it completely out of my ear, ripping down through my earlobe and leaving me with one good ear and one flapping raggedy ear. I never got the earring back; she ate it. That was the last day I wore earrings to school there.

Day two on the playground, a boy tackled me so hard, we flew across the yard like two cartoon characters and stopped only because we hit the side of the school. He had such a good time doing this, I had to stand by the wall after that because he and all the others wanted to repeat the experience. I was honestly frightened, all alone out there, day after day for two weeks, with those huge kids.

Once back inside, the older boys were still so excited that it was very difficult to keep them from, um, still playing. I also learned that it was my job to discourage them from this very popular activity. I tried, but I got slapped around for my trouble.

I left that room with fresh bruises, less hair, raggedy body parts, enlightened sexual knowledge, and a migraine, every day.

Lunch time was difficult, too. Each student had a different lunch, most of them loaded with their drug cocktails and catering to allergies. There was absolutely no sharing allowed, for obvious reasons, but the portions were small and it was really hard to keep the kids from stealing food from each other's plates. Especially when you're distracted from the scene by having to spoonfeed the other half of the group.

Three people were not enough. What was this system THINKING? How did the regular teacher manage? And by the way, she was absent because she'd been kicked in the gut so hard, it ruptured her spleen and she had to have surgery. And meeting in the boiler room. . . . the janitors were in and out, because, doh, the boilers were in there. Every time the door opened, somebody tried to run for it. I wanted to, but I didn't.

The worst day of all, however, was the day one of the teenage girls started her period there at school. Don't ask me how we found out; you really don't want to know. We called the nursing home (most of these kids did not live at home) and asked them to bring some supplies. They did. It was my job to put them on her.

Except, because of what they brought, it became my job not to put them ON her, but to put them IN her. Yup. They brought tampons. I was told to take the girl (screaming and yelling and flailing and cursing and kicking; that was her thang) into the restroom and insert a tampon.

You know, at 21, I hadn't been using tampons all that long, myself. I did not know how to insert one into someone else's body. However, I do now.

With a little bit of luck, I never will again.

I would like to say that schools do not conduct classes side-by-side with a hot boiler any more, or that special education classes are now a lot smaller and divided more logically, or that a young substitute teacher or even an older regular teacher would never be ordered to insert a tampon into a dangerously wild or even a comatose student, or that the bruises and blood and migraines are a thing of the past. I would really like to say those things, but I can't, because in some schools, it's still like that. I'd venture to say that in most schools, the migraines are rampant.

One day, while still at this substitute gig, I called home and asked Mom to bring me a pile of my brother's outgrown jeans to the loading station behind the school (that was our classroom door) because most of my teen boys were wearing jeans that were in rags. How raggedy were their jeans? Let's just say that it was very easy indeed for them to continue 'playing' long after recess was officially over.

They were all delighted over the jeans, and they all stripped right down and put them on. They spent the rest of the afternoon admiring each other's asses in the new jeans. The next day, they were all wearing the raggedy jeans again. The nursing home 'couldn't find' the nice jeans. They never did find them, in fact. Uh huh.

Where is this weird ramble going? Beats me. Blame Yvonne. She mentioned 'tampons' on her blog, and I get too distracted envying her gorgeousness to make any sense.

I think about those students sometimes, even now, all these years later. They had no one to stand up for their rights, and the school certainly wasn't going to shell out any money on them if they weren't forced to. I know several parents with special children, and they are all vigilant about seeing that things are done properly at school. I salute you, parents, for loving your children so much that you'd make yourselves unpopular at school for their sakes.

Public schools are supposed to be for every child, so if yours is not properly accommodated, get over there and speak up, and don't stop speaking up until things are made right.

This goes for parents of gifted children, as well as parents of special children.

They're ALL special.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:42 PM | |


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