On Wednesday, January 25th, our classroom toilet broke. Actually, the toilets in both Kindergarten classrooms broke on that day. I remember this date, as I was not at school on the 25th, and my teaching partner, Paula, wrote me with the news. Fellow Kindergarten educators will definitely understand the gravity of this news. Our students needed to use the primary bathrooms instead, and I kept envisioning a need to return to the “Piglet on a Stick” days from twelve years ago. (When I was teaching Kindergarten twelve years ago, I did not have a bathroom in the classroom. I used to have to do full-class bathroom breaks at the primary bathrooms. Walking Kindergarten students down the hallway is a challenge, as they like to look everywhere but right in front of them. I decided to hot glue a Piglet doll to the top of a really big stick to help with this. I walked with the “Piglet on a Stick” at the front of the line, and the children kept their eyes on the stick. My colleagues loved giggling with me about this, but I have to say, it worked. All students had eyes for Piglet!) I started to wonder if I had a Piglet doll to bring out again … and where I might find a really big stick. 🙂
With these thoughts in my head, I went to school on Thursday morning and saw this.
This was around the same time that I received a message from my teaching partner that she was home sick. Nobody picked up her job. Thankfully we do have a wonderful additional DECE, Angela, who could be in our class for the day, but our afternoon plans would have to change.
I was just processing all of this information, when our caretaker came in to talk to me. He wanted me to review with the class about toilet paper usage, no paper towels in the toilet, and flushing the toilet properly. There is nothing that Kindergarten students like to discuss more than the bathroom, but trying to make it through this kind of conversation with them, without Paula, could be an interesting experience. I was trying to work through a plan in my head when I went outside to get the class.
It was then that I was greeted with more not-so-good news: our EA was away sick, and there was no supply for her either. Since our principal, John, was at a Principal’s Conference today, I tried to work out a back-up plan with the principal designate. It was now just 9:05, and I will admit, I was feeling a wee bit stressed. But I told the students, “We’ve got this,” and off we went to start the day.
At the end of First Nutrition Break, I headed into the staff room to do some work during my prep, and I ended up chatting with two supply teachers that were in for the day. One of the supplies was in the other Kindergarten classroom, and she also mentioned the “broken toilet.” I just about found myself falling into the trap that Albert Fong describes so well in this blog post of his about teachers venting (i.e., replying with, “Why yes, we have a broken toilet too. And my teaching partner is away. There’s no supply. All 32 of our students are here. And our EA is also away sick.”), and that’s when I stopped. Instead I said, “Actually things seem to be going quite well so far,” and they were.
- Students used the primary bathrooms without a problem. They were incredibly responsible, and even mentioned to me if children in other grades were not behaving in there. I didn’t even have to resurrect Piglet on a Stick. 🙂
- My “toilet lesson” resulted in many giggles, but led to some meaningful math and writing. While I tried to teach students about the 3-4 square rule, I noticed that our school toilet paper doesn’t have squares. Oops! 🙂 Time for some non-standard measurement and estimation skills. I also spoke about holding down the flushing button to the “count of five,” so this gave us another purposeful reason to count. A few students even made signs for our bathroom door and wrote some “toilet rules” as a good reminder for when our toilet was fixed.
- Our students realized that I needed them more than ever on that day, and they supported each other well. It just shows that when we trust kids, believe in them, and tell (and show) them that they’re valued, they will consistently do amazing things!
- Our principal designate worked some magic and got us some EA support for the afternoon. We did not have as much as usual, but we had enough to support the students that really needed it. Couple that with some great suggestions by Angela and a little teamwork (involving both Angela and the students), and we all ended the day on a great note.
Our toilet was out of service for just under a week, and while I was incredibly happy to have it working again, and even happier to have my teaching partner back, this broken toilet was the start of something wonderful.
Yes, as educators we need to vent, and yes, life is not always sunshine and roses, but could we all have a little more happiness if we also reconsider how we respond to problems? On January 26th, I decided that I didn’t want to fall into the, “Me too, AND I’ve had it worse” trap. I wonder if the day would have turned out as well if I said what I initially thought instead of what I chose to say … and to believe. If I saw the day as a nightmare because of how things started, would it also have become one? On January 26th, I chose to remain calm. I chose to be positive. I chose to believe that we could do this … and we did. I do not always remember to make the same choices as I did then, and there are many times that I wish that I responded differently. I’m hoping that this blog post will act as a reminder for me that even a “broken toilet” doesn’t need to stop us. Attitude matters! How do you remember to stay positive?
Having 7 & 2 year old children make me appreciate the sheer magnitude of dealing with 32 kindergarteners, let alone teaching them! Whenever I imagine a primary/junior teacher, I imagine them with a halo above their head. I just came home from a birthday party with over 30 young children, where many parents were commenting on how chaotic the environment was, and my response is always “now imagine doing this for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. For. ten. months.”. The looks from the parents are always telling. Thanks for the mention Aviva, and keep up the great work!
Thanks for the comment, Albert! I must say that I do love our 32 Kindergarten students, and the organized chaos that is a play-based learning environment. There is something special about it that is so hard to describe to others, but makes me eager to go to school each day. Just the thought of teaching intermediate and/or high school students is terrifying to me, so I applaud all those that do. And while I did enjoy my time teaching Grades 5 and 6, my heart is truly in primary, and I’m so thankful that I have this opportunity again. So, thinking about your blog post, I won’t reply with, “Now imagine teaching these 32 Kindergarten students and with no working toilet,” 🙂 and instead say, “Thanks for the nudge — even if unknown to you at the time — to view things differently.”
I’ve always said that they don’t pay Kindergarten and Primary teachers enough. You folks experience things that could only show up in our nightmares. Your post was so descriptive; it was like we were there with you.
And, trust you to turn everything into an educational experience. The image of the rules cracked me up! I didn’t see that coming.
Hopefully, getting Kindergarten toilets repaired is high on the list of school priorities and you and your students didn’t have to suffer for long.
Thanks for the comment, Doug! Glad you found the rules amusing. I had a few giggles in the classroom too. There were many students eager to write about the “toilet rules.” Trust me: nothing tops a Kindergarten child’s interests more than what happens in the bathroom. 🙂
As for fixing the toilets, we were high on the list (a Board one, not a school one — the problem was too big for that 🙂 ), but the list was also a long one. Six days later, our toilet was working again. Unfortunately, we ran into a little snafu on day 1, but nothing that our wonderful afternoon caretaker couldn’t fix. 🙂 I love how this child that is handing out home reading folders had to stop in the bathroom for a little look at the “fixing process.” 🙂
But broken toilets and all, Kindergarten is still my favourite! For me, high school is much scarier.
You are, Ms Dunsiger, now officially the queen of bathroom talk 🙂
Spread positivity and positivity spreads. Love the message!
Haha, Kristi! 🙂 This was the post I knew I needed to write since January 26th. I promised myself I would once I finished our Communications of Learning.
I won’t say that I always remember about the importance of positivity, but I’m hoping that this broken toilet experience reminds me of this when I happen to forget. Sometimes we can all use a reminder.