Shop talk #SOL21 17/31

“You know what I think they need to be teaching?”

I do not, in fact, know what he thinks, but I keep my head still and say nothing.

“They need to be teaching kids, you know, how to invest and how to balance your checkbook.”

These, I think, are wildly different skills, but ok. Sure. Good things to teach. I risk a slight nod of my head.

Thus encouraged, he continues, “And kids should have to take Phys Ed right through grade 12. When I was in high school it was only grade 9, but that’s not enough. They need to learn to be active.” I continue to listen attentively. “And then, if they taught, you know, how to cook and, like, nutrition. That would be perfect. I mean, think of how much that would save our society on health care.”

He has more ideas, but at this point I am distracted by two things. First, I’m imagining the absolute chaos that would come from trying to install kitchens in every school. Didn’t we just finish taking those out? How much would this cost? And I’m already down a rabbit hole thinking about allergies & religious food accommodations, not to mention the kids who are vegetarian, vegan or… the possibilities are endless. Maybe we could have a vegan class? Or a celiac class? How would that work? What could we teach them to cook? Who would teach these courses? And what of the the gym space for all that Phys Ed? We would need a lot of gym space… Second, I am distracted because he is scraping the plaque off my teeth with a very sharp tool – and he is still talking.

When he pauses both activities, I tell him that the Ministry of Education added financial literacy to the math curriculum this year. He is delighted. “In what grades?” he wants to know. Um… all? at least through grade 8? I don’t know – I’m an English teacher for Heaven’s sake. Will his grade 7 son learn financial literacy during this school year? I wait for a pause in the scraping and gently remind him that we are teaching in a pandemic. He has chosen to have his children completely virtual. The teachers didn’t even get the new curriculum until the end of June. In a pandemic. With no PD. Maybe he could go gentle on his expectations for this year? He agrees that this seems reasonable.

He’s using the floss now and talking about the housing market. Safer topic for me, and I let my mind wander again as I consider just how much people expect of teachers. This hygienist is, I suspect, a really good father. He loves his children and wants the best for them. But… wow… school has become so much more than reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Clearly, he believes that we should be educating the whole child; so do I, though I think we mean it in different ways.

I think about all the students I have taught this year, children I have never seen without a mask on; children I have never sat with, shoulder-to-shoulder, to talk about their writing or discuss a book. I imagine the fun of taking them outside, of cooking with them… I’d let someone else teach the financial literacy part… we could go camping…

But then I’m back in the dentist’s chair and I’m an English teacher and it’s still a pandemic. At least my teeth are clean.

While you’re waiting on someone to clean your teeth, you could write a slice in your head & then publish it with the generous community at

9 thoughts on “Shop talk #SOL21 17/31

  1. It’s true, so many people have an opinion of what should be taught at school. However they are not cognizant of the every day realities – underfunding, lack of resources etc.
    You did well with your responses, especially seeing he had a sharp object in your mouth.


  2. This made me laugh because I’ve been in that seat before — literally and figuratively. I loved the shift between your internal thoughts and the actual dental cleaning. I never thought reading a slice about a teeth cleaning appointment would be so interesting. Thanks for sharing!


  3. I found a new hair person because of constant conversations like this. My person would spend the whole time telling me all the things that “they” do at schools that she thought were wrong. I tried to correct her a few times and then one day I thought, “I’m paying to sit & listen to this.” And I found someone new.


  4. Thanks for this lively writing that puts me in the dentist’s chair right with you — forced to grin and bear it.


  5. Grrr. I get so frustrated by everybody’s “expertise” in education. I often wonder if other professionals experience this in the way we do. Like, can you imagine having a conversation at school with a parent, who happens to be a doctor, about all the problems in the medical world? It’s just bizarre. I love the mystery you created in the beginning, and then I laughed so hard when you reveal it’s your dentist. Those conversations are already so awkward and one-sided. I also REALLY MISS those shoulder-to-shoulder conversations. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the way you formatted this – hearing the conversation as a reader, but also the opportunity to hear your thoughts. Excellent! I agree with you, and I’m often so shocked at people’s “passion” who are not in education. Many believe they have a fair stake just because they were students for 13 years. Thank you for sharing this.


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