Lost in Translation

Being sick at work sucks. This week, I’ve been cursed with some mystery ailment where I swell up in hives and get horrible canker sores. Therefore I walk around puffy faced, scratching all over, and lisping and drooling from pretty much chugging benzocaine to numb my mouth. I look like Quasimodo.

Kids reaction to sickness is interesting. I’ve been lucky enough that most of my students are sympathetic. All I really want from them when I’m sick is to behave. Not perfect little angels (aside from impossible, it would be boring), but at least somewhat in control of themselves. They tried this week. By Friday, though, all involved REALLY wanted to go home.

After a few days of indoor recess, they were off the walls, and I couldn’t talk from the pain in my mouth. I have never once lost my voice. Even when I am croaky and scratchy, I can make myself heard. Now, though, moving my jaw at all felt like chewing broken glass.

So for the last couple hours, I communicated by writing. I would have one kid read my messages out loud to the class. Mostly, it went well. They did some independent work, read some poetry out loud. Then we did our typical Friday clean up. In theory, they all go around the room doing their various jobs. Feed the fish, clean the floors, straighten up the books, wash the tables.

On a good day, half the class does what they need to do while the other half needs a million reminders that this is not the time to draw pictures, pretend to be cats, build block towers, or try and fit yourself into the cubbies. On a Friday after a long week, the first week back from vacation, after days with no outdoor recess… chaos.

By 3:30, I had several signs that I used repeatedly  I walked around with a sign that said GO DO YOUR JOB and kept holding it up at kids and vigorously pointing to what they needed to do. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU NEED TO BE DOING, AND THAT ISN’T IT was used often in response to “I am doing my job!”, often said while inserted into a cubby butt first.

WHOSE IS THIS? was used to find the owners of the scattered detritus of winter gear around the room. For the repeat offenders, those I was constantly chasing down, redirecting to their job, and handing stray mittens to, I used a sign that said DUDE. SERIOUSLY. It got the point across.

I also needed to use kids to get their classmates attention. I would write on paper, snag one kid, hand them my note, clap my hands for attention, and point to my designated speaker. Sometimes they would read what I said in a loud, clear voice. “Kate says put your chairs up.” Other times they would read the note, nod, hand it back to me, and walk away. Then I would need to grab another kid, and clap and point again. Sometimes they read it in an incredibly quiet voice. The kids who do this are, of course, the ones who are loudest when they shouldn’t be.

Most often, though, when something went wrong, it was my fault. My handwriting is atrocious. My colleagues often think things on the board are written by my students. I come across as very tech savvy for always having my laptop, but it’s only because I cannot read my own handwritten notes. So having my students read my scrawled messages was a recipe for disaster.

“Kate says.. ged… no… get. Get your snail. Snail? No mail. Get your mail.”

“Domt fergel your bananas. What is this? What does this say? Don’t, ok, don’t… fergel? What is fergel? That says FORGET? No way. OK, don’t forget your bananas. Did you give us bananas? I didn’t get one. Oh, oh backpacks, don’t forget your backpacks!”

Throw in a handful of speech and articulation problems, and it was even funnier.

“It’s WEAWY woud in heew, so pwease yower youw voices!”

I also needed to use notes to communicate individually with kids. If they asked me a question, I wrote an answer on paper. The problem here was that nearby students, in an attempt to be helpful, would enthusiastically grab my notes and bellow them to the whole class.

“Your mom is picking you up in the lobby! Don’t forget!” “Wait, all our moms? Everyones mom will be here?” “Mine is at work!”

“Don’t forget to go to your sister’s class and pick up her homework for her.” “I don’t even HAVE a sister!”

“I didn’t bite my tongue, I have canker sores. Thank you for asking” “I didn’t ask!” “I didn’t either!”

My very favorite sign of the whole day, the one that no one misinterpreted, and the one I was most happy to hold up, said ‘Bye! Have a great weekend!’


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