Friday, March 10, 2017


I know a lot of people don't like lunch duty. They don't like going outside when it's really cold or really hot. They don't like the noise in the lunch room. They don't like the messiness.

I love lunch duty.

I love connecting with kids.

Take yesterday. The minute I stepped outside a substitute approached me.

"Do you see that kid over there? The one in the white t-shirt? He has a big stick. I'm afraid it's not going to end well."

I look where she is pointing. I don't see anyone with a big stick. Still, I head across the playground, just in case. It turns out J is hiding behind the recycle bins. And he does have a big stick. Well, not a stick exactly. It's actually a heavy paper tube, about two feet long, that one of the second graders made into a rainstick during a recent unit on sound. Evidently, he has taken it out of the recycle bins.

"Hey, J, what is that? What are you doing?"

"Hi, Miss. Nothing. I'm not doing nothing?"

I wince a little at the grammar, a week before PARCC, but proceed with my stick mission.

"What's with the stick, buddy?"

"Nothing, miss, I just found this."

"Some people are a little worried. That doesn't look that safe."

"I won't hit anyone, Miss. I'll be careful." I have known J since fourth grade. He is a sweet, sweet guy and I seriously doubt that he would hit anyone, at least not on purpose, or at least not with the intent of hurting them. Even so, I know that sometimes middle school horseplay can get a little crazy.

"Let me hold the stick until after school, buddy. If you want it back, you can come get it from me then." I suspect it's probably out of sight, out of mind, and by the time that 3:00 rolls around, he won't want it anymore.

And after a little more discussion, he hands it over, albeit a little reluctantly. And for the next 30 minutes, I march around with a two-foot long tube. At least ten kids, mostly boys, ask me about the stick. Ask me if they can have it. Try to wrestle it from my hand. At one point, I tell two of our resident love birds that it's a PDA measurer I have made, to make sure that there is enough distance between them.

I have a lot of fun with that stick.

But then there are the more serious moments, the times I am really glad I am out there.

B, who has been at our school since late last spring, unfolds his fist to show me a sparkly purple plastic top.

"Look, Miss," he says, flipping it out of his hand to show me how it spins.

"Cool. Where did you get that?" I ask.

"My mom sent it to me. From Mexico."

"Your mom is in Mexico?"

"Yeah, she's there with my dad. She lives there."

I flip through all that I know about this kid. Big kid. Man-sized already. Arrived last Spring. Monolingual Spanish at that time. English developing nicely. Really smart. Beyond polite. Always has a crowd of girls following him around the playground. Registered to attend a technology high school next year. No siblings at our school.

Nothing about his family.

"Who do you live with?" I say.

"My brother and sister."

"How old are they?"

"Thirty-two and thirty-five."

"Where do they work?"

"In Centennial. My sister cleans houses. My brother manages a restaurant."

My heart clutches, as I imagine this kid, thousands of miles from home, living with older siblings that probably work a lot of hours, sitting by himself in a quiet apartment after school.

"How did you end up here?" I ask.

"For my school. It's better here."

"I'll bet you miss home. And I bet your mom misses you."

"Yeah," he says, and drifts away to show three girls his top.

I really love lunch duty.

For me, it's holy ground.


Michelle Haseltine said...

Lunch duty as holy ground! I LOVE this post. It was not at all what I expected, but so wonderful! Thank you for sharing how these moments allow you to connect with the students. Amazing!

Ramona said...

"I love lunch duty.
I love connecting with kids."
I loved every word of this slice from your hook at the beginning to your concluding words that took my breath away.
"I really love lunch duty.
For me, it's holy ground."
Bless you, Carol, for being there for the kids. Did J show up after school for that stick?

Carol said...

He didn't come and get it. I'm sure he had forgotten about it by then. If I get it out again, though, he will say something about it.

Linda B said...

I love your telling, Carol, and all that you mean to those kids. You know them, keep them safe by your manner, and that counts fro a lot. I loved lunch duty too, the chance to interact with kids not in my classroom already, and to see how everyone on the playground plays and moves. Thanks for sharing too about B. There are lots of kids keeping on while suffering too.