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Playground Posse June 22, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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As a “highly qualified teacher” it’s only fitting that I’m expected to do Yard Duty for 15 minutes twice a week. (Andy Warhol had the math wrong – It’s 15 minutes of fame 2 times a week for an entire school year!) This job is just too important to be left to amateurs, although my posse includes minimum wage employees.  

This year we got to “choose” the days we wanted had to do yard duty along with the times.  I signed up to do the “before school” shift, not because I’m an early morning person, but to get it out of the way.  

I lucked out and got assigned to the climber and back basketball court. Whew!  I managed to dodge the most dreaded of all Yard Duty assignments – Supervising the restrooms. That’s where the real action is.  But assignments change each year, so I’m not counting my chickens.

When I’m on yard duty, I’m basically back on Sixth Grade Safety Patrol. Throw in a little Mall Cop and the LAPD’s “to protect and to serve” motto. You get the picture.  A lot of school districts hire people just do to Yard Duty aka Playground Supervision, but not my district.  This is not a job that just anyone can do. 

Case in point.  When my husband was in art school, he got a lunchtime job working as a Playground Aide at the local public school.  He was fired after two weeks when he kicked a kid in the butt, after the kid spit on him.  Unlike my husband, I take pride in my ability to maintain a cool demeanor when spittle is dribbling down my face.  A police officer once told me, “I couldn’t do the job that you do – not without my gun.”  That’s why us teachers get paid the big bucks.

Monday Morning.  “Hey you!”  I yell.  “It’s Monday.  First graders only on the climber!”   “But I AM in first grade,” the boy protests.  I look him over.  This kid is HUGE.  Freakishly huge.  But several other first graders assure me he is indeed in first grade.  Geez Louise.   When Tyrano-boy runs across the bridge, the entire structure shudders.  I decide to keep an eye on him.  “I’m watching you,” I say, just to let him know I’m nobody’s fool.

I spend an inordinate amount of time standing at the bottom of the slide repeating the mantra.  “We don’t go UP the slide, we go DOWN it.”  I say this so often and to the same kids, that someone suggested we just have a recorded message.  Hey, I came up with an even better idea.  You know those metal spikes that puncture your tires when you drive the wrong way? 

I also do a lot of conflict resolution which usually culminates with rock, paper, scissors or an insincere, “I’m sorry.”  Every day it’s the same kids who get in trouble.  Hmmm, I wonder.

And there’s always a small group of junkies students who huddle under the climber snarfing Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.  NPR did a great segment called Kids Love Hot Cheetos But Schools Hate Them.  We teachers know the signs.  Red encrusted lips and the insatiable need to drink water.

At my old school,  I was on Yard Duty on day when I got a report of illicit activity in the girls restroom.  I slipped into the girl’s restroom and could hear the telltale rustling of the bag in the last stall.  There I found three Latino girls standing on the toilet sharing a Family Size bag of Hot Cheetos. “You are so busted!” I said.  I like to use that line of Kevin Spacey’s from American Beauty.  In fact, I like it so much, I actually look for opportunities to use it.

Wednesday Morning. “Hey you!” I yell. “It’s Wednesday. Third graders only on the climber!”  Since I teach third grade, I can easily sort these kids out. Third graders have typically graduated from Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to cell phones.  

Personally, I don’t have a problem with kids having cell phones, as long as they keep them in their backpacks.   But kids seem to have this need to show their phone to friends.  They Show and someone Tells.  That’s when I step in. “Oh, you are so busted!” I announce, as I confiscate the phone.  What they don’t know, is that when I walk away, I can’t help but smile.  Hey, I’m nobody’s fool.


1. sandysays1 - June 22, 2009

Loved your post. I’m willing to make bet; you wouldn’t change what you’re doing in spite of firey cheetos, cell phones, etc. Sounds to me like you really love it!


2. Christine - June 22, 2009

I had bathroom duty all year and the kids knew that, when I was there, they weren’t supposed to be. It was way more boring than your job.


3. lilikaofthelake - June 23, 2009

Ha! So cute! Morning duty is rough I bet on Mondays.
I thought as I was reading that tranformer saying on the cop car
“to punish and enslave” when I read your protect and serve.
You are so good 🙂

LOL – Yes, Mondays always make for a rocky transition. A lot of yawning kids dragging in to school – Some drinking lattes to wake them up! I like the Transformer saying better, but then my oldest son was WAY into Transformers. Optimus Prime was like a member of our family. Jan


4. Janelle - June 25, 2009

Ok – I must be getting old. I didn’t even know that hot cheetos existed until I read this. What a funny thing about the slide! Do you think that playgrounds are safer with all the newfangled equipment or just as dangerous as the old days?

Janelle – Actually they’re probably safer as long as the kids are using the equipment properly. There’s this soft squishy stuff underneath the climber and the swings to minimize injuries. The field is where most of the injuries occur. We had to eliminate football as touch football always turned to tackle and soccer can get pretty rough and tumble. Jan


5. elissestuart - June 26, 2009

I never have “playground duty” but I have had students participating in extra curricular ‘activities’ in the Fiction Section of my library.
They hate having a “Mom” at school who can hear the ‘cookie jar’ or a pair of pants open at 500 yards.

Elisse – Now I’m really intrigued. What’s going in those pants – Cookies? Jan


elissestuart - June 27, 2009

Ah no, the “extracurricular activities” that I eluded to….meaning students having sex or at the very least, foreplay in the Fiction Section.



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