Seriously. Nothing about the cheery, sparkling nature of glitter redeems the fact that it can not be cleaned up. Neither broom, nor vacuum, nor good wet mop will do the job. Glitter, and the ensuing battle to get kids to take some responsibility for their messes and rid my site of what the kids can’t do, is one of many reasons this post is late. Simply put, my job has been exhausting this week, and I’d rather play Mario or read a mediocre Terry Pratchett novel in my truncated downtime than blog. Or run errands. Or clean the apartment.
Do I get sympathy points because one or ten of my kids have passed along their early fall colds to me? (Yes, I am a hopeless whiner when I’m sick, and no, you really don’t need to feel bad for me, and yes, I actually have been taking my vitamin C in vain hopes of staving off the inevitable. : )
What I thought of starting to write about sometime on Tuesday was something we’ve all had most of our lives: names. I’ve discovered something in working with kids, which is this–your name changes. Worse, the social structure you use to refer to other adults in the vicinity of children changes, and I am completely at sea.
In program, the kids are supposed to call me Ms. Melissa. The difference between Miss, Ms., and Mrs. is not a particularly salient one for most of them, however, and when you add in a first name that has an /m/ and an /I/ and an /s/ sound, they treat my name as though it’s some kind of horrible prank that they won’t be tricked into uttering. By default, perhaps because most of their teachers are “Mrs.” something or other, most of them just call me “Mrs.” Not “Mrs. Walshe,” mind you. Just “Mrs.” I have no name for most of the day.
And then there’s the trouble of what to call my colleagues when addressing them directly. It’s one thing to say to a child, “Go bring this to Miss Sue,” for example, but when I need to call across the room to get help with something, do I holler, “Miss Sue, can you please lend me a hand with the apple juice?” Or do I just shout for Sue, speaking as one adult to another? The more experienced teachers who have helped me in the set-up of the program often refer to each other, even in private, as Miss This or Mr. That, which bothers me. Somewhere along my way through a liberal college, I learned to enjoy the warmth of familiarity, and the formal hierarchy of schools is not sitting well with me yet.
And then, if we’re talking about hierarchy, I am at the bottom as a rookie after-school teacher for a corporate program using school space. I imagine there’s no intentional assertion of rank happening, but rank is in the names. The principal, superintendent, and teachers are familiar to me primarily as Mrs. or Mr. Surname. Teachers aides and custodians are Mr. or Miss First-Name, like me. I’m hypothetically on a first-name basis with one of the secretaries by way of invitation, but I would be terrified to call her anything but Mrs. Surname, if it came right down to it.
The funny thing about these rules is that while I have a very strong sense of their existence, there are only very limited circumstances in which I find myself needing to address any of these people by name, for their benefit. I spend most of my time with kids, speaking to kids, and they’re easy. (Parents are another story altogether, but I won’t run you down that particular rabbit-hole tonight.) I have to wonder though, are these rules all in just my head, or are they generally acknowledged and acted upon by the community?
And really, would it do lasting developmental damage to my kids if I decided to bite my thumb at the rules and get my kids to call me just Melissa? I miss the sound of my name these days.