Tag Archives: school chaplain

Because it’s a holiday

It poured rain all night. I could hear it lashing against the bedroom window. This storm is a bit colder than the previous ones. Maybe we’ll get more snow, less run-off. It’s the run-off that causes the flooding in our local foothill communities.  However, the large amounts of water cause problems on the flat valley floor, too. Not only flooding, but causing trees to come down. The ground is soaked beyond capacity. We have now had over the normal amount of rainfall for an entire year. More rain is in the forecast.

It was raining at 5:15 when I first awoke. I could have gotten up had there been any need, but it’s a holiday, it’s raining, I’ve been up early and busy the last few days, so snuggling back under the covers and falling back to sleep seemed the best thing to do. We finally got up at 7:30 and I’ve started doing laundry. Laundry never takes a holiday.

I’ve not been to Columbia on a Tuesday, to check in with the older students, for two weeks. The cafeteria manager informed me they have been asking for me. My bag is packed with pencils, stickers, and books to hand out to various classes and kids tomorrow. I will eat lunch with the third graders who beg me every week to eat with them, but I have to leave to read to the first graders, my primary responsibility as school chaplain.

I’ve cleared my calendar for the next two weeks to be at Columbia on Tuesdays. Not only for the older kids, but because I have become friends with the librarian and she informs me that she hosts a parent coffee time each Tuesday morning and would like me to come. I would like that, too.  There will be no sleeping late on those mornings, though, as her meet and greet starts at 8:30. It’s a good thing I’m retired.


I must make an addendum: Terry tells me this storm is very warm, a pineapple express storm blowing in from the Hawaiian islands. Then why do I feel cold?

Sometimes a sticker is all it takes

Upon arriving at the cafeteria yesterday, I found one of the kindergartners sitting at a table in the back, by herself. This is the little girl for whom I got the alarm clock.  Now she was tearful and not eating much of her lunch except the pizza. I sat down, and said hello, then asked how she was doing.

“I want my mom,” she said through the tears.

“Are you having a bad day,” I asked. She nodded yes, sniffling. My assumption was that she was in trouble and that’s why she was at the back table. I would later learn that she had asked her teacher if she could sit back there, far from her class.

“We all have days like that. Yesterday I had a bit of a bad day.” Then I took out my phone, showed her the picture of our lunch from the previous day, and told her what had happened with the meal being spilled on my leg and foot. She giggled.

“Yeah, I smelled like barbecue pork for the rest of the day.”

“Did you know today is the 100th day of school and that you are now 100 days smarter?” She perked up a little more.

“I have a sticker for you that you can wear that says I’m 100 days smarter. Would you like one?” She nodded yes, so I got the sticker out and put it on her shirt. She smiled, still sniffling, and she said “thank you.”

“Are you going to be okay for the afternoon?”

“Yes,” she replied, smiling more and cleaning up her lunch detritus.

“I’m so glad. All of us have some hard days, but we can bounce back. You’ve done a good job bouncing back, so I have another sticker you can take with you.” I then gave her one of the very special Bounce Back Kid stickers that I rarely hand out. They are like gold. A bigger smile. And another “thank you.”

I talked to the noon-time aide to let her know the little girl was ready to go with the class. That’s when I learned that she wasn’t in trouble, she just wanted to have time by herself. The last time I saw her, she was skipping out the door, at the end of the line with the other kindergartners.



Working with small children can be hazardous 

Small children cough, sneeze, and wipe their hands on me. A flu shot is mandatory. I take probiotics to stay healthy. I also change out of my school clothes as soon as I get home. I’m always washing my hands, and I carry tissues and hand wipes in my bag of tricks, along with stickers, to hand out as I move through the crowds of children who seek me out on the playground and in the cafeteria.

I’ve had two jackets at the dry cleaners recently. One had milk spilled on it by the little girl sitting next to me in the cafeteria. The other one had pink-reddish smears on the back probably put there when one of the kids hugged me. The dry cleaning lady pointed out, with both jackets, moth holes and asked if I was sure I wanted the jackets cleaned. She probably thinks I’m some eccentric old lady.

“Yes, please clean it. I know the holes are there, but this jacket is only worn to school, to work with small children,” was the response both times.

Those two jackets, one purple, one maroon, are the only items I wear to school that need to be dry cleaned, and I only wear them on really cold days. We’ve had lots of really cold days since Christmas break.

Yesterday we had pulled pork for lunch.

This time, a different first grade girl, dumped the container on the right on my pants and shoes. Lots of pork and barbecue sauce. Fortunately, the items could be easily cleaned.

Today is the 100th day of school for our students. Lunch will be pizza, which I don’t eat, and we’ll see what happens as far as messes go.

Seeking sunshine & better days

The weather here has matched my mood–gloomy. We’ve had more rain this month than ever in Januarys past.

Although we need the water, the cold and gloomy days have not made me happy. Every time a storm front blows in or out, and the air pressure changes, the migraines hit. I’ve used more imitex this month than ever in Januarys past.

The third graders at Columbia have been asking me to come have lunch with them. The only way that is possible is to add an extra day to my schedule. On Tuesday this week, and hopefully for the next few weeks, i’m making a point of getting to Columbia for lunch with the bigger kids. Wednesday and Thursday are set aside for the first graders.

So many of the third graders (who were the first students I read to when I started as school chaplain two years ago) want to sit with me at lunch. We run out of room at the table. I took lots of stickers and puzzle pages but ran out before lunch was over. I will have to get more for next week. The cafeteria manager told me that there were more kids in attendance on Tuesday than any other day this year. She could only attribute it to the sunshine.

Next week is the 100th day of school. I have a special book to read and special stickers for the children to wear stating they are 100 days smarter. We celebrate all kinds of things in first grade!  But I find the fifth and sixth graders like this stuff, too.

Here is some elementary school fashion to make you smile. These shoes sure brightened my day:

When it rains…

…the sixth graders go wild.

Thursday was a crazy day at Columbia. First of all, the sixth grade teachers were all gone to a teacher inservice. Why the district would require such a thing on the first week back from Christmas break boggles my mind. It’s hard enough to get students back to routine, and having a substitute in the classroom is NOT routine.

Second, we had a major rain storm on Thursday. There were huge bodies of water throughout the campus. It seemed as though the kids were finding and falling into those “ponds” left and right. Upon arrival at the school I was greeted by a boy soaked to the skin from falling into one. I worked with the home liaison to find dry clothing for him from the stash of spare clothing I have been bringing. Nothing. The supply of pants was all gone due to so many “accidents.” Guess I have a project for next week. We eventually had to call the boy’s mother to bring him spare clothing, meaning he sat out of class for about an hour.

Rain does strange things to kids. Maybe it’s atmospheric pressure or something, but they become wild creatures, even under the best of terms, but with those substitutes in the classrooms, they became even wilder. I was asked to help get a class under control. Why me? Well, the vice principal was out sick, and the other administrator was out for a doctor’s appointment. That left the principal dealing with other issues, like the second grader who brought a small blow torch to school.

When I entered the classroom, after gathering some intel from students already sent to the office, things seemed to be fairly calm. The students were working on a math problem (I’m NOT a math teacher, never have been, never will be). The substitute was at the front of the room, with his back to the class, trying to do the problem on the white board.

Okay, here are some rules I have: Never turn your back on a class, especially if you are not the regular teacher. Always walk among the desks, speaking to each and every student, checking to see if they know what they are doing. Don’t yell. Don’t let them see you sweat.

The students in the office had told me that students weren’t doing the work and had their phones out. They also said the substitute was yelling at them. I did see the yelling, but the cell phones had been tucked away by the time I walked in. I helped students, individually, with their math problems and got them on track. Kids need to feel successful with the task or they quickly go off-task and misbehave. When I felt things were going well, I talked with the substitute and asked about the students he had sent to the office. He said they could return if they were quiet and behaved.

I returned to the office and filled those students in, but one student refused to return to class. He wanted his audience with the principal, to tell her about how bad the substitute was and how the class had behaved. The others returned with promises to be quiet and to say they were sorry. I suddenly realized I was late to lunch with the first graders, my real responsibility for the day. It was still raining.


Some things just don’t work out

You may remember the post about the teddy bears that had been collected and would be distributed to all the first graders at schools with school chaplains before Christmas break? It all sounded fine when I left Columbia on the Thursday of the last week of school. Ninety bears were awaiting the police resource officer who would come at the end of the next day, the day before Christmas break, and hand out the bears as the first graders left school. What could go wrong?

  • The resource officer was late.
  • There weren’t enough bears.

Because of absences, every child who was there got a bear, but even though I had been told there would be extras, there weren’t enough. I am not happy with this situation.

In talking with one of the first grade teachers, I learned 90 bears would not have been enough if all students had been in attendance. The lady who collected and distributed the bears had called the schools ahead of time and gotten the headcount for first grade. That’s why she gave me the number she did–nine bags, each with 10 bears. And remember, she had told all of the chaplains there would be extras we could do with as we saw fit. Didn’t happen at Columbia.

Because the teachers wanted the bears handed out on the last day of the week, at the very end of the day, so as not to disrupt class, I was not able to be there to help with the distribution. I thought, though, it’s pretty simple, what can go wrong. Famous last words for a control-freak such as myself.

A week of bears and coats

This week was made just a little less hectic when two days of Kearney tours were cancelled due to foggy day bus schedules for the school that would have come for those tours. That cancellation freed up time for me to shop for coats for children at Columbia who need cold weather gear. Our temperatures dropped this week into the 40s, which I know for some of you is warm, but for us, it’s freezing. It also rained. A cold, gray, drizzling rain. Coats were necessary.

I started at Salvatiion Army and found six coats for small kids–preschool and kindergarten. Even better, it was 50 percent off for all children’s clothing. Along with the six coats I also found three backpacks.

Another stop was at TJ Maxx, just because it was on myway home. Those discount stores are not my favorite because their selection is so limited, and sure enough, I had to look and look but did find two nice boys’ coats at really low prices.

Next, down the road, was Target. This is one of my main go-to places to shop. I am a devotee of CartWheel, Target’s discount app. Outer wear was 25 percent off and, if you spent $100 or more for clothing, you got an additional $10 discount. I found one boy’s coat and three for girls. Now I had a total six small children coats and six big kids’ coats.

On Thursday I was out early, in a cold rain, to pick up 90 bears for the first graders. Each year the school chaplains read the book,  The Teddybear Story, about a little boy who loses his favorite stuffed bear. It is found by a homeless man and becomes well loved by him. The story has quite a twist at the end. Each year I have one teddybear I use to tell the story and then leave with the class. That technique was shared at a chaplain’s meeting and someone said we should have a teddybear for each kid. Sorry, that was more than I could handle. I had trouble finding 4-5 bears that would fit in my storytelling bag.

Well, someone heard the story and decided to take it upon herself to get a bear for each first grader at the schools that have chaplains. That’s over 3000 bears. This woman is quite amazing and she has a network like no one would believe. She told the story, over and over, wherever she went and to whatever group to which she spoke. People opened their wallets and gave her money. Some collected the bears themselves and brought them to her. The bears started to pile up.

So many bears that she had to find a place to store them. She found a vacant office complex, and on Thursday, when I went there to pick up my 90 bears, she had every office filled with bags of bears, each bag labeled for the school to which they would go. I had nine bags. The schools are having  a hard time finding storage space for all these bears as we deliver them. Columbia put the nine bags in a conference room. The police resource officer for the area will come and hand the bears out to the first graders on the last day of school before the Christmas holiday.