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June 14, 2017 / sharoncopy

“This is an emergency”

School secretaries are under-valued.

I sat in the air-conditioned office during a half hour break I had (no recess duty) today.
During that time the secretary fielded phone calls, answered questions from students and staff, and no doubt tried to take care of some of her OWN work along the way.

The door opens and a dozen kids walk in. This is a little unusual, since usually it’s just one “injured” person (kids think that ice fixes everything) and a friend who is along for moral support.

Secretary looks up at the entourage (all about 2nd grade level).
Very solemn voice says, “This is an emergency.”
Secretary, not seeing any blood or tears: “Which one of you is hurt?”
Several kids sort of taking turns talking (it’s like waves – one overlaps the other and another and another): “We found a butterfly with a broken wing. (Pause) We want to take care of it, so we need something to put it in.” Solemn faces all around.

Phone rings, other duties are calling. Secretary says that she will find some kind of container. Stands. Says that only two of them may stay – that the rest of them have to go back outside. Goes to find the container and take care of another request. Kids start arguing about who gets to stay.

“Me and L. found it”
“Well, it was my idea to come inside”
I stand, put on my “Guest Teacher” identity again, walk across the office and command them all to leave. They analyze me briefly, not knowing who exactly I am, but recognizing the authoritative voice – at least on the second time I tell them. I choose the two who most adamantly seem to think that they are the founders and say that they can stay, and I shoo the rest of them out the door, sad faces on all. Another boy has stayed. He informs me that he is in THIRD grade, implying that the “only two can stay” rule didn’t apply to him. I send him packing as well. Secretary comes back with some sort of food container for the poor broken butterfly. I return to my seat, figuring that this isn’t the best time to tell the kids that holding a butterfly actually causes harm also, or to ask how they expect to help it get well. She tells them to put some leaves and twigs in the container. I’m thinking: fruit, maybe?

Before I think to add my comment, the door flies open and a staff member ushers in a wide-eyed, covered-face boy, stating, “Bloody nose coming through! Bloody nose coming through!” She takes the boy through the office to the appropriate room, followed by the secretary who now has to take care of this real emergency as the staff member returns outside. My “recess” time is over, so I head for the door. The secretary returns to her desk to answer the ringing ringing ringing phone and thanks me for my assistance as she picks up the receiver.

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