You Can Lead a Horse to Water And You Can Make Him Bathe
It was recently brought to my attention (through my own observation and concern of teachers) that one of my counselees was in need of some serious personal hygiene improvement. After speaking to his father and informing him of our concerns I asked that he pick up his son from school to return him home for a shower and to change his clothes. A task that he had not done in over a week (the student’s own admission). His father’s response was: 1) inform me that he was on his way to work, 2) admit that although his son has not bathed in over a week he has every opportunity to do so, and 3) suggest that he take a shower here at school. After a brief conversation as to why that’s not the solution I realized that even if he went home there is still no guarantee that he will bathe. When I asked that he bring up the proper supplies (clean clothes, soap, towels etc) he said that his wife will take care of it then hung up. His wife was not home at the time (7:30 am). When she returned home she phoned my office (9:30 am) to inform that she will be right up to the school with the supplies I requested. Well she arrived, with only semi-clean clothes and a dirty dish towel; there was no soap, shampoo, nor deodorant. I informed her that if he is in this condition again she will be required to bring him home to shower then return him to school.
The point of this letter is to commend the Phys Ed. Department on their response to this child’s plight. With the assistance of Tom Miggliozzi and Kristen DiPietro, we scrounged and scrambled to find soap, shampoo, deodorant, and towels for the student. After consulting with Mr. Alexander, I showed him to the shower in the boys locker room where he successfully completed a task in which many of us do with regularity. It just goes to show you that adolescents deal with many types of pathology. Some latent but some manifest. The way that we respond to those pathologies that manifest themselves is how we as an institution come to define our culture. Caring, compassionate, working collaboratively, are all attributes of our school’s personality. To the outsider, the immediate reflection that is observed from a situation such as this is of our faculty’s commitment to our students. The attitude of “we’ll do whatever it takes” becomes prevalent as well as inspiring.
Never in a million years would I have imagined this scenario. As I sat in all those graduate courses or during the process of interviewing, this question never came up, “What do you do with a student who doesn’t bathe and whose parents are incapable of making him bathe?” Well now I know. Enlist the help of the phys ed. staff. Although this was a short-term solution to what is obviously a long-term problem, deep down the child understands we care.