Other duties as assigned

I was typing furiously at my desk in Teenage Wasteland this week when someone I didn't recognize stopped in the doorway. She asked if I had a moment to talk to a student, and when I asked what about, she said she had a student who had been disrespectful to a teacher. The student had said there was an issue she was having that she didn't feel comfortable talking about, and the stranger at the doorway said she couldn't find anyone else when I suggested the principal or psychologist. I told the stranger I'd try, and in came a very shy looking 6th grader.

Nearly an hour later, I escorted the girl out of my office. She didn't want to talk to me at first either, she said she didn't feel comfortable, and I said I wasn't going to pry. I kept her talking though, about safe topics, and at some point when she clammed up as we got close to her issue, I told her she could either keep talking or go back to class. She kept talking: her dad passed away a few years ago, her mom has re-married, there's a new younger brother in the class, she feels like no one cares about her, etc. In other words, more than I'm equipped to deal with. I asked her to talk to the school psychologist, and she finally relented, hesitant to have to share her story with another stranger. I have to toot my own horn with this girl: we had a good chat, one that surprised even her. She said when she came in she had already decided she wasn't going to tell me the problem, and on her way out she said it was "cool" the way I had just a normal conversation with her about it. I am pretty sure being cool in the eyes of a 6th grader is a compliment.

Later in the same day, the principal asked me to follow-up with a girl with reported thoughts of suicide that she had talked to the day prior. When I called her into my office, I found another tiny 6th grader looking at me, expecting me to have the answers for her. Her story was different: she feels fat, she said. (From a clinical standpoint: she's totally wrong, she looks like a normal, healthy girl.) We spent some time together, and I didn't think it was productive until as she was walking out of my office, she looked back and asked, "You're here Wednesdays you said?"

A co-worker said on Monday I have a bleeding heart, and maybe I do. But I think even if I were an ice queen, yesterday would have still worn me down a bit.


Feed me!

I am so disgusted by the school lunches. They rolled out some new guidelines for meals this year, and the implications for the school kids mean stricter calorie requirements, as well as more veggies. You'd think that's a good thing, right? Wrong. I have been accompanying my diabetic to the cafeteria on occasion, and each time, I'm shocked by the tiny portions (as well as the poor quality). I know there's an obesity problem in this country, but I am also a firm believer that not everyone's nutritional requirements are the same. The lunches being served would have left me hungry as a child. Blech.

(Read this for more information on the video.)


Oh, children

I walked into my office at lunchtime to check on my diabetics, and found another kid in there already:
"Why are you in here today?"
"Well, I tried to go to the bathroom but I looked in every toilet and they all had pee in them already!"
"So...you went in your pants?"
"Yep, I peed my pants."


Teenage Wasteland

I was going to write something here about the middle school I'm at this year, how overcrowded it is, and how sad it is that students from my former middle school now have to travel through some major intersections (many of them on foot) to get to their new school. I was distracted by my thoughts toward the end of the day, exhausted by the drama and issues that 6th-8th graders face in the community, when someone came bursting into my office and gave me one giant bear hug before I was able to really recognize her: Shoe Girl. (If you're new here, you'll have to read about Shoe Girl for some background on her. Suffice to say, she's important to me.)

I first dealt with her when I started this job over two years ago, when she was a tiny little 6th grader. She's in 8th grade now, and at the risk of sounding like a parent, she has grown up so much...She's a young lady now! When she finally let me out of the hug, she started talking quickly, "I'm so glad you're the nurse here, I've been looking for you but I keep coming on Thursdays and you're never here." She told me how things are going at home (pretty good), and at school (kind of okay, except for the kids picking on her because of her shoes). She invited me to hang out at her house after school one day, or maybe the park, and suggested that when she's done being an 8th grader, I could be her nurse at the high school, too. She told me how glad she was when I stopped by to see her last year, but how much more glad she was that I'm there every week now. With the interpersonal conflict that's been clouding my work lately, Shoe Girl was a breath of fresh air*. Thank goodness, my job has a purpose for at least one kid. As I walked her out, I reminded her I'm there on Wednesdays, and I have a feeling I will be seeing plenty of her this year.

*Not really. She still smells like stale cigarettes and unwashed clothes and hair.



I've been at one of my schools since I first started my job two years ago. It was a wild first day at that school, one we still reminisce about to this day; the secretaries like to say with relief that I wasn't scared away by Day One. It's the district's lowest performing school and is in one of the poorest sections of town; there was a stretch last year where bodies were found within blocks so regularly we had to have extra lock-down practices, and when two of our kids were orphaned by a domestic violence incident last year, no one was surprised. It's at that school that I feel lucky when I can call a parent myself rather than have to find a translator, and I'm surprised if a parent answers the phone or brings in emergency medication, and it's where kids know I'm there on Tuesdays and have parents telling them to save their maladies for that day to come talk to me about. I have that school because none of the other nurses want it; it's too "high maintenance" with its needy population.

I arrived there two years ago, the same year the school got a new principal. Since then, test scores have increased dramatically and attendance has improved. My favorite part about that school, though, isn't a number: it's the attitude. The teachers there are the happiest and most welcoming bunch I have ever met, and they like to tell me about the dark days, before the new principal. The kids are well-behaved and respectful toward me, grateful for any attention they get, and I swear cuter than at other schools. I like being there because I feel needed and appreciated, by kids and staff alike. Most impressively, there's not a single person at that school who doesn't credit it's joyousness and productivity to the new principal. A man who frequently comes to work in a T-shirt and jeans is responsible for saving this place from total hell, which is what it's been described to me as before, and the lesson here is this: one person actually can make a difference. To that man, I say thank you for making that school the "happy place" of my job. 


TGIF for me

I was summoned to the tetherball courts at lunchtime for a first grader who reportedly couldn't walk. Suspicious, as I've grown to be, I left the wheelchair in my office as I went out to check on her. As I broke free of the kids hugging me (my popularity has soared since the hearing/vision screenings), her friend told me the severity of her injury: "It's my best friend. She can't walk." I found Twisted Ankle girl on the ground, tearless and smiling as soon as I asked if we could work on our tans together out in the sun. After a brief check of her ankle, I asked her to get up and come with me to my office for ice. Twisted Ankle girl's friend, ever protective, questioned my decision: "Are you sure she doesn't need a wheelchair?" I explained my decision was based on the fact that there was no swelling, no discoloration, and she could move her ankle just fine. Stunned, her friend looked at me and in all seriousness said, "Wow. I guess you really are a nurse!" 
I gave my Spitfire diabetic some nail polish she had complimented me on last week, and my other diabetic, ten year old Mr. High Maintenance, noticed.
Mr. High Maintenance: "What? What about me?!"
Me: "I'm sorry, did you want nail polish?"
Mr. High Maintenance: "Ew, no! What I do want is that stuff rock stars wear around their eyes!"
Me: "Eyeliner? You're going to have to ask your mom for that."
Mr. High Maintenance: "I already did. She said I might get an infection."
I called Mr. High Maintenance's mom to report his blood sugar, as I do every day, and she wouldn't let me off the phone without telling me this: "I really appreciate the way you take care of my son. You work really hard for him and he likes you a lot, and I just really appreciate it." 
The icing on the cake today was actual cake in the teacher's lounge. I take my lunch after everyone else, and usually get shortchanged on the goodies, but not today. That, and the fact that it is my Friday, and I have no plans tomorrow but to hang out with my dog.  (I told Spitfire that I would be off tomorrow, and she asked if the nail polish was because I was going to be gone. That's right, a nine year old caught me trying to buy her out.)



I have a lot I could write about: the sweetest lice-ridden girls I know, how Spitfire diabetic has me so wrapped around her finger that I am typing with ten painted fingernails for the first time in years, how I drove past my old shuttered middle school and thought of all the kids that used to go there and now are having trouble getting to their new middle school, or how this morning when I came in and found a girl crying in my middle school office it was because a friend had just told her she'd seen that girl's mom and sister get hit by a car while crossing a busy street (later verified). But when I sit down at my computer to write, I can't think of much other than the continuing interpersonal conflicts happening among my co-workers, and I don't want that to overshadow the rest of my job any more than it already is. I'm nostalgic for the days when parents were my biggest problems; for my faithful readers, thank you for your patience and hold on tight. I will resume my regular writing just as soon as my brain can handle it. 


Teacher's Notes:

"Amanda needs ice. Brian punched her in the face 3 times."

"Clothing malfunction." [Torn tights.]

This week, besides some entertaining teacher's notes, included a broken front tooth after the student's face met the pavement in a raucous basketball game, fingernails falling off, and blood sugars between 51 and so high that the meter couldn't read it. I like this kind of busy.



At 10:30 this morning, a cute-as-a-button 5th grader came in for an ice pack. I asked what he was doing hurting himself so early in the morning, and he replied cheerily, "The girls are always hitting me." 

The quote of the day, though, goes to a different cute-as-a-button 4th grader. He was waiting in my office to go home (due to "too many sneezes pushing out [his] boogers") and he asked how old I was:
Me: "How old do you think I am?"
Sneezy: "Forty." 
Me: "Close, I'm 27."
Sneezy: "What?! You're too young to be doing this!"