Before I went on maternity leave, my school had one of those intruder drills that terrify the kids to no end and leave the next half-hour open to a grand what-if game from second graders (the imaginations on these kiddos! No, I don’t know what the school will do if every car in the parking lot has a bomb.) The staff later debriefed on the drill, making the rather obvious point that the classroom doors did not lock from the inside. Our administration promised this would be remedied.
I cheered. Not because my classroom was a little safer from menace, but upon my return to the classroom I could lock the door and pump milk during recess. My seeming failure of teaching my students to actually go outside during recess would not matter.
I returned a few months’ later, toting my black bag o’ breast pump and ready to help nourish my little Jade. And for the most part, things have gone well.
Unfortunately, my students still won’t go outside.
Inevitably, at least one recess per day, I will have the pump going and my boobs hanging out when the locked door echoes the awkward sound of a kid tapping because he forgot something “necessary” for recess or inexplicably wants a pencil or has something to tell me.
I tend to not respond.
The knock comes again, and a few seconds’ pause gives little voices “The door’s locked. What do we do?”
I continue to ignore them, and eventually the kids decide they will survive the next ten minutes of recess.
Except for the ones who don’t. I’ll find them when I finish up and unlock the door and head out to fetch the kids for recess. There may be a smattering of kids clustered in the hall in their jackets clutching soccer balls staring daggers at me because I wasted their recess by forcing them to stand out in the hall waiting to get a pencil or a rubber band.
My point is, breast pumping at school wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. During my leave I checked to see if I could pump a sufficient amount of milk in the 15 minutes recess has to offer. Check. I had a new model of my favorite pump (did you know even the best pumps give up the ghost?) Check. Those new doorlocks had been installed. Check.
But kids don’t seem to be the way there were when I was one of them. For some of them, recess is practically a chore. Every day I get a request to stay in from even the most sociable children. This is another complaint on life entirely, but suffice it to be said not all kids want to leave the classroom. So I had to get mean. My philosophy has long prevented me from keeping kids in from recess as punishment. Really, child, you messed up so now I have to sacrifice my break time to watch you? Who’s the victim here? But now I had to actually shove kids out the door and say that if they forgot the crayon they wanted, too bad.
My most difficult situation made me teacher of the year, or not. One student is practically having a case study year. She meets almost daily with the school counselor, but when she wants to stay in the classroom during recess her good teacher shoves her out.
How do I justify this? Am I not supposed to be the teacher martyr? No, my teaching is a job and it’s not my job to fix every aspect of this girl’s screwed-up life. Out the door she goes. The world does not improve because I neglect my own kid.
The adults, however, make the situation awesome. I’ve never even informed my administration I would be pumping. I just decided I would pump during lunch and the two recesses and that would be that. In the case of indoor recess, I am more than capable of hunting down a spare room or closet. The staff that catches me in the act, so to speak, are so supportive. In fact, we chat about nursing babies and breast pumps and the importance of self-care. And that’s the way it should be.
However, when second-graders can’t stay out of the classroom, things can get tricky. I wound up having to make a sign on the door to encourage them to stay out.