What's going to become of a child whose legal first name is "Gangster"?


Other duties as assigned.

Today I was left in charge of a classroom while the teacher called CPS. One of her students came to class with facial and throat bruising; when questioned about it, he told his teacher it was because his dad was mad at him after yesterday's parent-teacher conference. In the words of the teacher, some people should just not reproduce.

Today marks the beginning of Thanksgiving Break, and I only work three of the next seven weeks. I'm fully aware that I am being spoiled rotten by this job.



1. Lice is GROSS. I have seen some gross stuff in my short time as a nurse, but nothing grosses me out quite like live lice in someone's hair. I got through five periods of vision and hearing screenings and was nearly ready to jump for joy as I reached the very last group of the day when the other nurse pulled me aside to sat she heard a report that one of these last girls had lice. Being middle schoolers, I figured it was just another rumor, but when I went to put headphones on this girl, I saw I was sorely mistaken. There they were, crawling around, I didn't even have to go digging in search of them. I wanted to go take a disinfectant shower; instead, I still had a meeting and training to attend.

2. Trainings never fail to bring out the dumbest in people. What is it about those things that just make them magnets for completely idiotic questions? It's bad enough sitting through them, but listening to the questions (that I could have answered without sitting through the training) is just pouring salt into the wounds.


These are a few of my favorite things:

Putting teeth into little plastic tooth-shaped capsules for children to take home.

A certain girl at one of my schools who comes in every time I am here, always volunteering to be the buddy in her classroom to walk the ill and injured to my office in order to see me; better still is when I can make her laugh.

Curing stomachaches and headaches alike with a cup of water and some TLC.

Answering questions ranging from "How did you get to be a nurse?" to "What's a bladder?"

Hearing every facet of the children's lives while they wait in my office to be picked up.

However, my least favorite things include, but are not limited to:

Mass screenings of kids who think they're too cool to have their hearing and vision tested.

Nurses meetings where, consistently, absolutely nothing is accomplished.

Trainings, no matter what kind: MediCal billing, SEIS, Aeries. These are the most painful of all things to me, and the instructor always seems to want to go over the coursework as. Slow. As. Possible.

Tomorrow my day will include all of my least favorite things. I have been dreading the day for weeks, and my refrigerator is stocked in anticipation.


How dumb do you think I am?

(Random thoughts ahead.)

I had a kid waiting to go home for suspension walk into my office and ask if he could give me a dollar to buy him a soda from the faculty lounge. Absolutely not! Luckily, that's the only vending machine in the school.

If a student has not met the immunization requirements, or as is increasingly the case, had a waiver signed exempting the child from said requirements, we are mandated to exclude them from school. I HATE doing this. I cannot stand sending kids home from school. I had one girl who I'd called in the office to warn her there would be a letter giving a beginning exclusion date in 2.5 weeks (10 days is all that is required). I sent the letter home, and the following week had a Spanish speaker make the call for me in order to ensure no language difficulties. I was annoyed to find on her day of exclusion no updated immunization record, so I called her into my office to discuss it with her,  planning on giving her another week. But when she came to my office she claimed she never got the letter and her parents didn't know, and more than I hate sending kids home, I hate being lied to. I told her that wasn't the case, I had someone speak with her dad last week to confirm the letter, and that she needed to go home.

It reminded me a little bit of when a girl came in who had been caught with OTC eye drops. Her eyes were "dry" and she just needed something to "clear them up" a bit. I assured her she could have the eye drops, but I would need a doctor's note accompanying them. She decided to leave them with me, and the rest of the office staff laughed with me knowing I wasn't about to have one pulled on me by a 7th grader. Lay off the weed, girl.

Today I found out our third week of winter break is because so many kids go home to Mexico for the holidays, and parents don't bring them back. Rather than lose the ADA money for all those absences, they'd rather just extend the year a week and let the kids stay on break since they'll be gone regardless. Same goes for having the whole week of Thanksgiving off: parents take their kids out anyway, and the school loses money every time. At first I thought it was a tragedy to have so much time off, concerned for fitting my contract days in... But now that they're approaching, I have no problem at all with them. Happy four day weekend to begin the holiday season!


When in doubt...

All through nursing school, or any mandated reporter education, you hear "When in doubt, report it." No one tells you that there will be times that reporting might do more harm than good. What about when there are cultural differences, as was the case for one nurse who told me of a reporting dilemma. A young teenage girl was married to an adult man, custom for where they came from in India, but an atrocity here in America. What about the girl whose mom you are sure beats her but if you report her to CPS one more time, it still will do no good, and the girl will probably only get beat again because of it? (Not to mention having that said angry mother will come looking for you too.) Is it wrong to not report her mother, even if you have proof in the shoes she is neglecting her daughter, because you know if you do you will probably lose the fragile relationship you have built with her daughter? They don't teach you the fear of the nurse that parents drive into their children when they've been reported to CPS, and they don't teach you how it feels to have suddenly lost respect from that child too young to know right from wrong. I will tell you: it is terribly, terribly disappointing to start connecting with a child week after week, assuring her you are an adult she can trust, something you know she doesn't have enough of, and then have it be ripped apart because her mother thinks you reported her to CPS. What's actually worse, though, is knowing you didn't report her on account of not wanting to lose that relationship, and now you've lost it anyway.


This glass is half empty

In one of my schools, I arrive at the school breakfast time. Each day that I come to this school, I prepare to hold my breath as I cross through the cafeteria on the way to my office. The food being served is like a bad accident: I can’t help but steal glances at it, even though I know I don’t want to know what it is. Sometimes it’s cold pizza, sometimes sausage, and on a good day, it’s a sugarcoated cereal. Sure, there are orange slices available, but what child will take an orange slice if pizza is offered before that? [Truly, the way the line is formed, the fruit stand is last and most children get out of line with a tray full of junk food before they even see it.]



Two confirmed cases of pertussis in the district, and one is at my school. Not that I know what to do with the information; the Communicable Diseases Department, a division of the county's public health department, does not have anyone manning the phones that knows what to do with such a predicament. The nurse who faxed me this information was, according to one person, "around" - but could not be reached for a live conversation. In the meantime, I should probably start becoming a pertussis expert, because I expect chaos once word gets out about this.


On the inside, looking in

It's Election Day, which I think is an appropriate day to comment on the sorry state of our schools in California. Here's what's going on:

The food served to the neediest is greasy, and generally brown, including the wilted iceberg lettuce. Cold pizza is served for breakfast, and warm pizza for lunch as an alternative to the main entree - which is almost always something fried, in addition to regular French fries. If it's not pizza for breakfast, it's a gigantic, icing covered cinnamon roll or some kind of sausage. No matter what, it will be something guaranteed to mess with the diabetics' blood sugars, as well as every child's cardiovascular health. Walking through the cafeteria is enough to make me want to lose my own breakfast.

The majority of teachers are undeserving of their reputation as lazy. They get to school long before school starts and leave long afterward, often times after required professional development meetings, and then bring homework home to grade. They sit in the lounge at lunchtime, lamenting their ever-growing holidays and the time they lose out to teach. They buy supplies out of their own pockets, even clothes and glasses. I'll be the first to admit they work far harder than I do.

Physical activity is limited to a short walk before school, a ten minute recess during the day, and then maybe a few minutes during lunch if they eat fast. I think we can all imagine what they do or, rather, don't do, when they get home too.

As far as infrastructure goes, some of it is literally falling apart. Air conditioning and heating units break regularly, phones in the portables only sometimes work, and it takes careful magic to unlock one of the cupboards in one of my offices - the one that has the epi-pens. The district recently moved to all electronic records, but did not have the foresight to update the computers. It takes 15 minutes to turn on one of my computers, which in case of emergency leaves me with the usually very limited history contained on that year's paper emergency card.

As far as staffing goes, one of my schools last week had three teachers call in sick on the same day, and could not get a substitute for two of those classes. They spread out the classes with the absent teachers among the other classes in the grade level, 4-5 students extra per class. Kindergarten classes contain 30 wild monkeys, and the district doesn't know why no one's learning. There is still a classroom vacancy at one of my schools; there have been rotating substitutes since August but it appears none of them stay for long. Then there's the office staff. The principals all get a bye, they are there dawn til dusk and are clearly passionate about their jobs. The rest of the office seems to spend a large portion of the day gossiping about one thing or another, on the phone with personal calls, or any number of things that can hardly be claimed as work. I'm trying not to implicate myself here, but if someone was detailed enough to audit the office staff, I'm pretty sure the work could get done with many fewer staff members. And the janitorial staff! My goodness, those guys sit in the lunch room longer than anyone. Granted, they're not paid that much, but wouldn't it be better to pay fewer people to do better work?

I could go on forever, but I think you get the idea. I'd say vote accordingly, but I'm not sure I have faith in any of the candidates to fix the mess: it is so messy out there.