A comes in Monday morning telling that he can't breathe and that he needs to use his inhaler. I am a little surprised, this is the first time this year he has asked for it, but I send him to the office immediately. Fifteen minutes later he is back. I ask him how he is feeling and he says that he is much better.
A little while later, he is at my elbow again. "I can't breathe," he tells me pointing to his chest. "It's really tight right here." I ask if he wants to text his mom. He tells me that he already did and she told him he should try to hang on and see if it gets better. He asks if he can go to the office and take another puff of his inhaler. I write out the nurse's pass and he goes off.
Two or three minutes later, he is back. "I don't want to go to the office. They will just make me sit down."
I look at him. He looks a little pale, and is definitely not his usual chipper sixth grade self. "I think you should go back to the office," I say. "Let me call and tell them you are coming."
I call the office. Our secretary moved to North Carolina last month and we are still looking for a replacement. The school psychologist answers the phone and I explain the situation and tell her A will be coming back to the office. She says she will look for him.
I explain this to A and he heads out again. Ten or fifteen minutes later, we have specials. The psychologist meets me in the hall. "Where's A," she says. "Isn't he coming back to the office?"
I am confused. "He went back 15 minutes ago. Didn't he get there?"
She shakes her head. "No, he never came."
Now I am a little worried. "Let me take the kids to specials and I will look for him." Ms. L tells me she will check the bathrooms.
We meet again in front of the office. He is not in the bathrooms, or the counselor's office, or the library, or on the stage, where kids like to go to hide. I am about to go outside to look for him, when the social worker hears us talking.
"I just sent him back to class," she says. "He was sitting in my office, waiting for Ms. L."
"Waiting for Ms. L?" I question. "He was supposed to go to the office for his inhaler. "
Just then A comes back down the stairs. "You told me to go to Ms. L's office," he says. "I waited and waited but she didn't come."
"I didn't tell you to go to Ms. L's office," I say. "I told you to go back to the nurse's office."
Then all of a sudden the pieces come together for me. I told A that I had talked to Ms. L, who actually does have an office. When I talked to Ms. L though, she was in the main office, not her office. A needed his inhaler, and it never occurred to me that he would go anywhere except the main office, which is connected to the nurse's office. Somehow A thought I was sending him to Ms. L's office, so he went there instead. And waited. While two of us spent 15 minutes looking for him.
Just another day of effective communication in sixth grade...
This could be life with students of any grade level! In fact, some of my grad students are just this "focused" on the literal meaning of what is said!
Oh, I'm just so relieved that you didn't find him passed out in a hallway. Even though I was just across the student center & around the corner from the nurse's office, I sometimes sent another student to accompany someone I was worried about. I'm sure they loved it! This piece could just as easily have been titled "How I Lost Precious Time During Specials."
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