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"Miss, what's that pink thing in your ear?" and other thoughts from the Education Unde

"It's an earplug." "Why do you wear it?" "Because y'all are SO LOUD." Please notice and appreciate that I don't say "frickin' loud" as that would be inappropriate for the tiny tots.

This year I started working as a math tutor at a local elementary school. What Mr. Wile E. Principal did not mention is that I would have a tour of duty everyday in the cafeteria. No, this was not brought up until the day before school started. And it came right after he told me that I would be the reading specialist as well "because the reading teacher has left to be a yoga instructor." "I've never taught anyone how to read." "No problem, it's easy. I'll show you." Some people get a Master's Degree in Reading, some people get a 10 minute tutorial.

But the good news is that there are only 10 school days left. 10 more days of handing out sporks and ketchup packets and settling lunchtime disputes. 10 more days of doing all that in the 85 decibel range. How do I know that? Because my sweet husband came to have lunch with Younger Son one day this spring. It's a big deal for a kid to have a parent come for lunch, bringing food from the outside world. I wanted Younger to have this experience. Truly. Also, I wanted my husband to see my working conditions - I'm not proud of this, but I piqued his interest when I told him that I just remind myself everyday that there are people in North Korean internment camps who would love a job in an elementary school cafeteria. "Really, North Korea is the benchmark?" he asked me. Anyway, I see him fiddling on his phone, and I'm about to say something naggish, when he shows me that he's been taking readings of the decibel level on his phone - "85 with spikes up to 90." For those of you who are curious, OSHA requires safety gear at the 90 decibel level. And to think there are those who laughed at my earplug. Also, it's important to keep your hair pulled back. When you bend over to listen to a child talk, your long hair mingles with their hair, and this is how lice is spread. Trust me on this.

I am also celebrating 10 more days of Older Son's 6th grade year. And then we can cross 6th grade off of his list FOREVER! Gad, I hate middle school. Again. I distinctly remember the day Older was born, turning to his father, amidst the pain, exhaustion, and joy and saying, "Hells bells, we're going to have to send this baby to middle school one day." My middle school philosophy was to keep my head down and just get through. Not much has changed. Some kid in Older's gym class was wearing Pac-Man socks, and Older told him they were cool and asked where he got them. This kid replied that my son was gay and to shut up. Dear God, bless and keep this moron far away from us. I suppose I should rejoice that character and grit are being formed.

The one saving grace of middle school, however, was meeting my darling Vim. And that is my prayer for my son, that in the midst of all these middle schoolers and their middle school awfulness, he will meet a lifelong friend.

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