Two score and four years ago . . . A difficult job An unfortunate situation Unrealistic expectations
I found a vacant lot. “I should have googled it. Did I really think that I would remember the exact location?” The new building, the replacement school, has been there for more than 30 years. “What was I thinking? Duh!”
Not thinking! Duh!
Why now? What crazy impulse had possessed me to drive around . . . today?
Spare time? A feeling of nostalgia? Perhaps the search for a story brought back the idea. An attempt to verify facts . . . shore up the details!
It was just a job. One of THREE job assignments that I had for work study.
Lunchroom Monitor in a K-6 school building.
Rows and rows of these tables.
“Your job,” said my supervisor, “is to make sure that students are quiet. We would prefer NO talking, but that’s pretty impossible. Whispers only, AND ONLY when everyone is done eating.”
My work study job.
Was there even a minimum wage back then?
(Back to the topic!)
One of my first paying jobs was to “supervise” elementary students and make sure they were quiet in the lunchroom. In fact, so quiet that they were ONLY whispering in the lunchroom, after they had finished eating.
Not my first lunchroom job as I had wrapped silverware, scraped trays and cleaned tables in grade six for free lunches. (But I digress AGAIN!)
I was six years older than some of these kids. Kids that didn’t look like me.
Kids with lots of energy especially after they had finished their lunch and could not go outside until the bell rang. Kids who were not supposed to talk. And yes, this was before lunchroom stop signs for noise levels had been invented!
What did I do?
I shut the door.
I am sure that there are those of you, dear readers, who are shocked that I would subvert authority just as there are those of you nodding your head and saying, “Go, girl.”
It was a paying job.
They were to be quiet.
My job was to “supervise”.
However, I would argue that my job was NOT to “stupor-vise” and falsely require students to be as silent as a church mouse. (Definitely an old colloquial simile.)
Contrast that with the teachers’ lunchroom in the same building during the same time period. It was impossible to hear yourself talk in a conversational voice in any corner or even in the middle of that room. Definitely not quiet. Definitely not whispering. The hypocrisy bothered me. Power? Position? Abuse of power? I didn’t know any of those phrases.
But what I knew was that kids should be kids.
So we made an agreement. A bit of my job/your job and some negotiation.
The kids would eat quietly. The focus was on eating, and that oh, so careful mastication! After cleaning trays, students could move around the room, congregating in twos, threes and more. Leaning in, chatting quietly, relaxing. Not wandering aimlessly because the wooden floor was quite noisy.
Both sides being reasonable.
A realistic negotiated conversation.
Waiting behind closed doors for freedom to ring from the playground bell . . . the signal to run, yell, and play hard!
Have you ever broken a rule for the “right” reason?
Have you ever fought back against a perceived injustice?
How did that work out for you?
And the rest of the story . . . The next year I still had “in school” work study jobs, but I was not back at that elementary school. Younger, less impressionable students who believed in following the rules were recruited . . .
And I was thankful to be released from the quietude of the lunchroom packed with students.
Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.