I volunteer weekly in my 1st grade son's classroom. The job requires the ability to follow directions that have been quickly written on a bright post-it notes in 1st grade teacher code, the desire to be hugged by children repeatedly as they pass by on their way to and from the bathroom, quick reflexes for doling out hand sanitizer before accepting said hugs, and good cutting skills. I meet the requirements for the most part, except the following directions; I have messed up a few tasks due to not being able to crack the 1st grade teacher code. But I covered my tracks and left the job for the afternoon volunteer. She likes those jobs anyway.
The mornings I spend at the school are pretty predictable in a controlled chaotic 1st grade sort of way. But this day, yesterday, being St. Patrick's Day and the Exceptional Teacher's birthday with a 70 degree sunny forecast, an unusual level of excitement crackled in the air. The 1st-grader-just-happy-to-be-alive mood-o-meter was swinging way passed "ecstatic" to "euphoric". All was going great. Kids were happy. Exceptional Teacher was smiling. It seemed the luck of the Irish was being enjoyed by all.
Then the luck turned. Right in the middle of small reading groups, Exceptional Teacher noticed it. It was unmistakable. The bearer of the bad omen wasn't yet known, but it was clear that one of the students was a carrier. The nose does not lie. "I smell dog poo," Exceptional Teacher said. Those words weren't fully formed before every kid was doing the sole search dance. You say "dog poo" and all within ear shot immediately start high-stepping and looking at the bottoms of their shoes. That move is an innate response. It's like a sneeze. So Exceptional Teacher and I start checking the kids' shoes and sure enough, one of them has carried in an aromatic dog biscuit with them. And I was the one lucky enough to find it.
"Got it!" I yell. I felt like I had located an IED.
"Get back!" I yell. I carefully remove the loaded shoe, sweat beads forming on my forehead, just like Tom Cruise in MI (the first one, the good one).
Exceptional Teacher then says, "Are you sure?" I am pretty sure. Everyone knows what this looks like, right? But to be certain, I...I am ashamed and embarrassed to admit it...I smell it! What was I thinking? Did I really need to do that? "Yep, I'm sure." And I take the shoe outside to remove the stinking stowaway.
I was hoping it would be as easy as scraping the shoe bottom five or six times across the grass but this was not to be done with such ease. Have you ever looked at the bottom of a (clean) Skecher shoe? There are more nooks and crannies there than in whole package of Thomas' English Muffins. The wiping on the grass trick wasn't enough. So I end up in the janitorial closet with hot water and a putty knife. Detailed work such as this is only done by skilled artisans. But that shoe was as clean as the day it was made when I was done.
I returned the shoe to the poor, embarrassed student who only wanted his shoe back and this day to end. Exceptional Teacher said, "Thank you for taking care of that. I would have done it. I usually do." This apparently happens a lot. Which brings me to the first part of title of this post: Our teachers aren't paid enough. And not because of the countless hours they spend outside of the classroom preparing to mold our children's minds. And not because school budgets are so constrained that they have spend their own money to buy tools to help them do their jobs effectively. It's because every so often one of our kids comes in with a stinking dog treat stuck to their shoe and before anyone can focus on the lessons at hand, somebody has to remove the stink and its source! And that somebody is usually your kid's teacher.
Luckily for Exceptional Teacher I was there and really didn't understand what was happening to me. Thus, I took care of it this day. Afterall, who wants to be scraping away dog poo on their birthday? I'll just think of it as my little birthday gift to her. Which brings me to the second part of the title to this post. There really isn't such an award at our school, but if there were, I'm clearly a shoe-in for it this year.