Yard duty again! As I scanned the yard through my puffs of frozen breath, then checked the asphalt behind the school, I was struck by how many students were standing still, huddled in corners or grouped with their backs to the icy wind.
A child crossed in front of me, bearing a chuck of snow in his arms that looked like a piece of cut Styrofoam.
“Riley, you know the rule!”
“Keep the snow on the ground. I know, but I needed this for our fort!”
I followed his gaze to the sad little circle of snowballs on the ground, surrounded by an intent group of eight-year-olds. The brown grass around their project stuck up through the snow where they had rolled this foundation from the meager adjacent snowfall. There was no way that those kids could accumulate more building material without carrying the forbidden snow.
“Okay, but get it there fast!” My sympathy overtook my academic allegiance.
Within four crunchy boot-lengths, a whistle cut through the chill.
“Put it down! NOW!”
He cast a glance back at me. I tightened my mouth, gave my shoulders a small shrug, and pointed to the ground. Riley slammed the snow chunk down a little too hard, and then shuffled over to his friends.
I felt like a traitor. The poor kid didn’t mean any harm. The other teacher stared at me as if she thought I was a traitor to the staff as well. Great!
At lunch, I grumbled. The teachers at my table were largely like-minded individuals, so I felt safe.
“Why don’t we make a list of what they can do, for Pete’s sake? It would be a lot shorter than telling them what they can’t do out there!”
I was met with one of those moments of silence, the kind that are supposed to bury your remarks until someone can change the subject.
I went into kamikaze mode. I have this fatal flaw, where if I sense other people disapproving of me, then I really have to go for it.
“Well, what can they do on the yard? They can’t go on the climbers because they are too slippery, they can’t slide on the ice because it’s too dangerous, they can’t play touch football because they might fall…”
As I scrambled for another example, looks were exchanged.
“But we have to keep the kids safe, that’s the most important thing, right?”
“Yeah, but they’re standing out there freezing because there is nothing to do. What good is that?”
The most mature of the teachers present spoke with great authority.
“They are getting fresh air!”
Heads nodded, and then there was a sudden rush to clear the table and be gone.
I was sitting alone, just me and my plastic bowl of nuked pasta.
“I still say we would be better off coming up with things they can do,” I told absolutely no one.
Heaving a sigh of defeat, I chucked my crappy apple at the garbage can. Naturally, I missed.