Local Teacher Sprayed with Poo on First Day of School
....said no headline ever!
Of course, we all have those moments we'd like to un-have. Like when your toddler drops his sippy cup full of juice on the sidewalk, and then you pick it up and hand it back to him, and he kicks his little legs and repeatedly screams in his underdeveloped and poorly annunciated way, "No Joos", which sounds a lot like something else. And then you realize that there are people outside staring at you, and you feel like a terrible Mother because your child is being loud and tantrummy, but then you register that they are actually all standing outside a synagogue, and it's Saturday, and everything clicks into place, and you realize the horror of what is unfolding, and you start jogging with your stroller and declare, quite loudly, "Oh, you don't want any more JUICE", as if saying it more clearly and louder will erase what has just transpired.
Yup, that was a bad moment. But that is a different story altogether. Today I am going to focus on what was meant to be my crowning moment as a teacher. Six years of University, an Education degree in hand, substitute teaching and job shares out of the way, and now the holy grail: my own classroom.
In a bold move I decided to wear linen. It was September and still quite warm as it often is when school is back in session. Ironed to perfection, I donned my white linen shirt and khaki pants. The classroom was clean and perfectly organized with crisp new nametags. I greeted my class at the door, shaking each clammy little hand as they enter the room. Grade one, two, three, and me. All together for a glorious year of learning. Once cubbies and coat hooks are sorted out I have them join me on the carpet.
It was going well. Kids are happy, sharing stories about their summer......but there's a waft, an odour, a smell that seems to be coming from the left. I catch a few whiffs over the next 10 minutes or so. I determine that ground zero is a new kiddo, a Grade 1 who looks so nervous he might poop his pants. And then I realize that ship has already sailed. I want to maintain this child’s dignity. Don't want to start the year with jokes or judgement, so I break up our wonderful carpet time and set the older kids to the task of showing the younger ones around the room. I approach said young man and suggest we step out into the hall. All alone, I let him know that I think he may have had a bit of an accident. With his face cast down to his shoes, he manages a nod of agreement. Not a problem I say. This happens all the time I say. I know just what to do I say. I lied.
We head down the hall where both the secretary and staff bathroom are found. I let the secretary know I have stepped out of my classroom and to keep an eye on things. It is a small school; the kids are very independent, and everyone works together so I am not worried about the classroom for the few minutes I figure this will take me. Luckily, I asked all parents to include a change of clothes for the first day to be kept in case of accidents or muddy recesses, so we are good to go. A quick change, bag up the old and put on the new.
He is in the stall with the door slightly ajar and I am standing over by the sink. I have placed his change of clothes on the counter so all he needs to do is follow my instructions, put the nasty business in the plastic bag and get dressed. He obliges, but the horror that is revealed is nothing that either of us are prepared for. Liquid poo literally exploding out of his undies, down his legs, filling the inside of his pants like a water balloon gone awry. And now that containment has been tampered with, it is pooling over his socks and shoes as well. OK, not prepared for this. Totally not prepared for this.
I am trying not to gag, trying to maintain that "no big deal, this happens every day" attitude. I can see the quivering lip. He is about to lose it and go into full melt down, and I don't blame him one bit. My first thoughts are that I must save this kid from what will be a terrible first day of school memory. I try to act cool. I hold the plastic bag open and tell him that everything is fine. Still no big deal. Just step out of your pants and put them in the bag. We can tidy this all up in no time.
One foot is quickly pulled through successfully (thank goodness I asked for indoor shoes too!!!). We are on to the second foot; the end is in sight. He pulls it out of the pant leg and just as he is about to be free of the offending clothes, he has a moment. He has an idea. He's decided he doesn't want to touch the poo pants any more than I do. Sure, I have wads of toilet paper at the ready for him to use but he is not keen on any of this, and in true 'being creative and thinking outside of the box" form, that would make any teacher proud, he decides there is a way to get his nickers in the bag without touching anything. And so, in that moment when his diarrhea-filled back to school clothes are dangling in a semi contained bundle on the tip of his shoe, he deftly executes the old flick and toss.
There is an arc of browns, a muddied rainbow of pants and poo that blur into one. I stand with open bag at the ready but have no time to react. At the tender age of 5 he has amazingly good aim and the payload lands with a thud in the waiting receptacle. That part went well, but the brown wave left in the wake makes contact in a different way. Like a sword stroke intended to split me in half, the poo trail makes contact from face to knees. It is acidic and rank. I am desperately trying not to throw up and it is in this moment that I lock eyes with young Master poo sprayer himself. That small, horrified face is all I need to switch tacks immediately. I calm him, reassure him, and attempt to exude a completely mellow aura, all whilst covered from head to toe in excrement. It is a complete and utter façade, but he buys it.
It is a blur. I get him sorted and cleaned up, keeping the tears (mine, not his) at bay. I open the door and wave over the secretary. She takes him back to class, looking VERY concerned about what she just saw, and I am left alone. I wash and scrub and sob. My beautiful white shirt is no more, replaced with the dirty tan stylings of the recently soiled. I have washed my face more times than I can count. It is in my hair, so I try to wet it down and get the 3D particulate sorted out as best I can. The blow-dried coif and perfectly pressed outfit now seem like a distant memory. And the smell. It seems to resist more than the stains. I eventually give up, knowing I need to make my way back to the classroom and get on with things.
In this utterly disheveled state, I made my way through the morning. I taught lessons, worked with manipulatives, and read stories as my clothes dried on me, getting crispy in the spots I didn't clean quite so well. I manage to get everyone out for recess, all the while eagerly awaiting the drop off of clean clothes I had requested. And when this epic day ended, I made my way home and immediately deposited my carefully curated first day outfit into the garbage never to be seen again. I took what may have been the longest shower of my life, washing and rewashing my hair and still feeling certain I had the lingering scent of l'eau de Poo.
I have been teaching for nearly 25 years now, and though there are a million stories to tell, the poo spraying incident of '99 still stands out after all these years. That kind of olfactory offense leaves a deep emotional scarring that isn't easily overcome!
* For those of you who were wondering, the young man went on to have a wonderful year, and I never taught in an Elementary classroom again without having a change of clothes in my desk!