by Ashely Carney
April 2009

The counsel room smells like a mix of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and re-heated cheese pizza.  Chocolate milk spills happen once every 10 minutes, and someone is always asking, “I’m allergic to chocolate, Miss Ashley, may I get a bag of chips?”  I know this child is lying because he ate chocolate chip cookies with chocolate milk for snack yesterday and there hasn’t been a fatal allergic reaction yet.  Too tired to argue, I allow him to have chips because the temples on my head are already pulsating from the various decibels children’s voices can amazingly reach.

Working at Our Lady of Good Counsel Elementary School’s after-school program is the highlight of my day.  I come home every day with a headache and the possibility I might get sick with the flu because dear little Morgan coughed and sneezed in my face while I was tying her shoes.  The memory of cracker crumbs spewing out of her mouth and into my face is encrusted into my mind.  Even after washing, the feel of water droplets from her uncontrollable sneeze lingers on my arm.

I’m interrupted while helping Sammy with her second grade math homework.  “Miss Ashley! Brendan spilt some of his milk, come check it out,” Stephen bellows from across the room.
Stephen was wrong.  Brendan, a hyperactive first grader, didn’t spill some of his milk, he spilt it all.  Hunched over the lunch room table, Brendan was slurping up his carton of spilt chocolate milk.
“Brendan! That’s disgusting!  Do you want to barf when you get home?  Do you know what kids do on these tables?  They eat, then they spill their own food, then they cough on it and now you’re licking up all their germs.  Plus, the ladies don’t find a boy slurping split milk attractive,” I explain with a sly grin on my face.  Brandon’s witty response was less than what I hoped for.

“Well, if I do barf at least I miss school.”

The fact that Brendan could possibly contract a million different germs from one table licking doesn’t cross his simple mind.  Nothing fazes these children anymore.

Thanks, T.V.

I’m interrupted while helping Brendan by the annoying beep that intentionally rattles my eardrums and summons me to the counsel room doors.  A parent is here to pick up her child.  My bobby pin has fallen out of my hair, which is now in a curly mess and it looks as though I could be clinically insane. I smile at the parent, they smile back. “Good” I think to myself,  “her hair is just as messy from the wind.”

“Lisa, your mom’s here,” I beckon to her from across the room.  Yes, it would be more efficient to walk over to Lisa and retrieve her for her mother, but I like to yell to see how many kids will turn around and look.  Wow, none.  That’s because they’re off in their own obnoxious world.

I say goodbye to Lisa who finally made her way over to her mother as a herd of first grade girls and Samantha, a second grader, huddle in front of me.

“Miss Ashley, Bridget spilt her milk!  What should we do?” Andrea asks with questioning “yea’s?” in the background.

“Andrea, girls, what do you always do when you spill something,” I say as I open my eyes wide, smile as crazy as a clown and run around as if it’s the end of the world.  It makes everything more enjoyable when you’re acting like a first grader, too.

“Oh, paper towels,” Andrea finally recalls.

Now, I must pay attention to Samantha.

“What,” I ask. I instinctively know this is going to be about a fight.

“Well, Ben hit Theresa and Theresa told him stop and then Ben just laughed and dropped his notebook.  I saw it,” Samantha matter-of-factly tells me with the hopes of getting someone in trouble, as long as it isn’t her.

I roll my eyes with the hope that she sees.

“Samantha, are you Theresa?” I ask.

“No.”

“Samantha, are you Ben?”

“No.”

“Were you even playing with Theresa or Ben when he hit her?”

“No.”

“Then why are you over here?” I raise my eyebrows along with my voice.

Silence.  Samantha likes to tattle-tale. However, if anyone tattle-tales on her, tears begin to flow down her round, chubby face.

“If Theresa was hurt by Ben, she would have told me herself.  Who knows, maybe Ben’s flirting with her,” I wink.

That makes her run away giggling to her group of gossiping girlfriends.  They hate it when I talk about boys and flirting.  Remember, boys have cooties? Circle, circle, dot, dot now I have my cootie shot?  Well, I remember.  In fact, I get the cootie shot everyday from my first grade girls.

The children are dwindling now.  It’s nearing six o’clock and time to go home.  The bell rattles my eardrums for the last time today.  The last child has been picked up. I say goodbye and plop myself on the seat to rest for a moment.  Oh no, someone left their red folder full of homework that’s due tomorrow.  I see a lunchbox in the corner.  This means I have to go pick it up. I do and it’s Ignacio’s.  He always forgets it. Uh-oh. I spy spilt milk on the floor.  I must have drowned out the children when they told me about this one.

I smile.  I can’t wait to come back to work tomorrow.

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