In the closet

When I had my second child, I was teaching at a relatively rural high school. Sure, some of the kids lived in the town, and more lived on large properties, but a fair number lived on farms, too. There were stories of kids coming to school on snowmobiles in the winter or sneaking off to go fishing or hunting when the season opened. I am pretty firmly a city girl, so a lot of this was new to me.

This was also the school where I started working in a program euphemistically called “Student Success.” The students in my room had not, in fact, met with success. The class was small, but every student was there to catch up on at least one and usually two or more subjects which they previously had failed.

I loved every minute of it. The room was full of all kinds of kids who were there for all kinds of reasons. The small number of students meant that I could get to know them and that they could get to know one another. The fact that they had already failed a course meant that any movement forward was a success. We shared a lot, laughed a lot, and celebrated a lot.

For those same reasons, I used myriad strategies to help students stay focused, persist through difficult moments, and generally learn how to learn. One of those strategies involved using the small office/closet/storage space next to our classroom so that a student could have some quiet. This was *never* a punishment, the door was always open, and we didn’t use it often, but sometimes it was just what we needed when someone was looking for focus.

I was particularly grateful for that little space when I returned from parental leave. I was still nursing, so having a private place to pump was fantastic – no more hiding in the corner of the classroom away from the door or hoping no one looked over at me in the staff room. Ah, the luxury of my own small room. It was heaven.

Of course, I still used it with students sometimes, so I carefully packed away the various plastic bits and bobs and zipped everything back into place every time. Or almost every time. Except, apparently, for the time when K went in there to finish up a test in peace. He was a particularly exuberant kid, not known for his ability to sit still or focus for any length of time. He worked on his family farm and regularly regaled us with tales from his daily life. He loved to talk. So I wasn’t at all surprised to see K’s face at the door mere moments after he had left for the quiet room. But I was surprised that he was, momentarily, speechless. His face was red and he was hopping from foot to foot, sputtering.

Alarmed, I jumped up. “K! What is it?”

He stared at me, eyes wide with horror, “You put me in the MILKING ROOM? THE MILKING ROOM! Miss, I CAN’T WORK IN THERE!!”

I nearly fell off of my chair laughing – so did everyone else. K took a while to settle down again. Needless to say, no tests were written for the rest of that class period and that particular room was no longer in use for the rest of the school year.

The milking room. Still makes me laugh.

Many thanks to twowritingteachers.org for hosting the Slice of Life every week. And special thanks this week to my teachers knitting group whose storytelling led me to remember this one.

9 thoughts on “In the closet

  1. Oh, my… I loved this story! It is hilarious! I can’t even bring myself to call it what your student, K, called it. So worth the read. And the giggle. I think you may have created a permanent memory or your student, K.

    -Marina R.

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  2. That’s a great memory slice! Hilarious! Although, I am sad that the room wasn’t as useful after!
    I used to pump in the corner of my classroom, with doors locked and windows covered – it would have been nice to have a room. Although my friend always told the story of the room she used, and how our colleague used to walk by the door and moo… so maybe I’m glad I just used the corner of my classroom!

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  3. 😂😂😂
    This is funny, but it’s also sad because it highlights how little consideration women staff get in schools. I remember one time a colleague who taught in a temporary classroom (a trailer out back) locked her classroom door so she could pump undisturbed during lunch only to have the principal use his pass key to let himself into her room as she sat at her desk pumping. In no time the entire school knew the story. 🤣

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  4. The “milking room” — ha! I can see why this memory still makes you smile and your affection for this group of students shines through it all. After reading your slice and the comments, I’m struck by how differently we can all see the same story, depending on our situation, culture, level of awareness, life experience, etc. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t at first consider that underlying your humorous story is an example of how little consideration nursing mothers get in the workplace. This was such an interesting reading experience for me.

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  5. OH MY – I can just see that boy’s red face-! But the post, told as always with your great wit and warmth, is hilarious. It reminded me of my first official educational position of “reading remediation tutor” – my “room” was a converted supply closet in the main office complex. I shared it with another teacher; we had two students at a time in there. I don’t know how we did it, now, but we did. Making do is what we do…alas…but this vivid image of your K will stay in my mind for sure!

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