To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Sunday, February 28, 2021

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BY SHARON MARTIN

Sharon MartinWaiting outside the door of a classroom to pick up students for Reading Lab, I saw a second grader pointing at me.

“I know you,” he said. “You’re the table-washing lady.”

I’m a reading specialist, but every teacher knows that teaching subject matter is only part of the job.

At our school we move 450 students through the cafeteria during lunch hour. This requires a system and a couple of busy table-washing ladies. As I wash tables between waves, the principals are mopping up spills and dispensing condiments at the salad bar. The speech pathologist is handing out milk cartons.

And this week, in addition to teaching students to read, do math, and wash their hands when they come out of the restroom, we are also overseeing a huge drain on the state’s education budget, standardized testing.

Parents and lay staff have been enlisted. No teacher is ever alone in the classroom during testing. Nothing is allowed on students’ desks but pencils, the test booklet, and the answer sheet. We have “Quiet” signs in the hallways. Phones and bells are silenced. And learning comes to a dead halt.

I look forward to lunchroom duty.

How many legislators know what actually goes on in an elementary school? Do they know how many hugs are dispensed, like the medicine they are, every day? That kid with the lice? He’s probably the first to ask for a hug.

How many legislators know how to check a kid’s head for lice?

Would our governor be willing to clean tables an hour every day?

Who among the leaders would do these necessary jobs gladly?

I like lunchroom duty. It’s where I really get to know the students, in their array of colorful personalities. I recognize the future scientists, the artists, and the bullies.

Even here, teaching goes on.

Don’t shove.

Watch out for your neighbor.

Pick up your mess.

When my duty is over, I grab a tray and gobble down lunch in the teachers’ lounge. Then I go back to the classroom to do what I was trained to do – teach kids to be critical thinkers when confronted with written and spoken words.

I love my job. But a cup of coffee or a bathroom break would be nice. So would a secure source of funding so no teacher has more students than she can see to. And we’d all like a little respect for all the jobs we do, including table washing.

Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer