All Aboard by Peggy Bogaard-Lapp
Recently, I came across a blog post titled “What is your profession, and what has your work life taught you?” I instantly thought of how ironic it was that I was in a job that had me surrounded by children, because I never, ever, (ever) saw myself working with kids. I babysat one time in my life, when I was 13, and it was the boy next door. I’m pretty sure my mom did the babysitting, but I somehow got the $2.00. I didn’t like babies, my nephews were annoying and worse, boys. I was a late child, and my siblings had long before moved out. Consequently I spent all my time outside of school with adults, including my grandmother. And until my nephews were born, there were no babies anywhere in my family. Plus what fun are babies to a kid anyway?
I spent my previous work life in administrative jobs, in a bank, in IT, and never really felt like I had a calling for some specific career. Oh, but then there is my writing, but that is a whole nother post…..
So back to my job now. I’m a paraprofessional in a public elementary school. I’ve been there for five years. I started out doing cafeteria and playground supervision, going into it without one ounce of experience. My own daughter was at the school and I was learning all about parenting as I went along, so that’s what I did for my para job too. I was lucky to be paired with an awesome woman that did have experience, and daily I looked to her for guidance. She helped me navigate the days of chaos, and to do my job well, and I still work with her today. It was only a few hours a day in the beginning, and the two most dreaded duties of an elementary school. After all, watching a group of kids eating isn’t very appealing. And how many Gogurts and Lunchables do you think I have opened during these past five years? Let’s not forget the number of times I have blown my whistle (hint: several times a day) to halt some unsafe behavior, or as my family and friends joke, to close the slide. Yes, I have closed the slide during recess, after several attempts at getting kids to play on it safely. This is not one of my favorite parts of my job, but I have learned a few things about the playground, cafeteria, and general behavior at school.
- Other people’s kids are just as loveable as my own
- School is a safe haven for a lot of kids. They know what to expect, even if it’s what time lunch is (or that they are getting a lunch).
- Kids reminds me of being one a long time ago. I like to think back to when I was in elementary school and the things that were my favorites, like music and social studies, are the same (and many, many that are not).
- Parents are not that different now than they were then. We had bullies, and kids who smelled, and kids who didn’t have a dad or mom.
- Parents are a lot different now than they were then. Kids lack respect for adults, discipline, and smell, and don’t have a dad or mom. Or have two of each. Sometimes too many adults can leave a kid out.
- Things like coats have no value. Each month we gather the unclaimed items in the Lost & Found and donate them. I’m amazed that so many expensive, like-new coats are not missed by a parent. Or a freezing kid.
- Manners are something that we can kiss goodbye. I’ve given up expecting them, and every time a kids speaks to me with a mouth full of food, I cringe. Blech! But I do make a BIG deal out of it when I receive a please, or thank you, and the rarely heard, excuse me. Those really make me have faith that there are some parents out there trying. Thank you.
- A job like mine is often overlooked for it’s value and necessity. I literally stand in for a mom (or dad) when a child comes to me crying. I console them, rub their back, give them my focus and concern. Forgive me if I give them a hug.
- The whole process will go on whether I am here or not. It’s no different from any other job I’ve held. My customers are all under the age of 12, and not much more needy than those I had at the bank I worked at back in 1988, or when I sold pagers (yes, pagers, the original text message technology tool) in 1992. There will always be the need for childhood education and adults to facilitate it.
I will always remember these kids. Maybe not by name or face, but I will carry with me a part of each of them, and how they touched me. Some good; some really good, and some really, really bad. I feel lucky to have had the chance to observe what really goes on in a school: the learning, the excitement, the rituals, even the noisy cafeteria. There is nothing like the day when a student finally “gets it” and understands what you have been trying to teach them. A school is is like a silent train, always running, staying on the tracks (sometimes the wrong tracks), picking up and dropping off passengers at their own destinations. I’m glad I have climbed aboard.