Don’t you just love how the nutso stuff that happens at school somehow always winds up as the school counselor’s responsibility? Nothing like a little discomfort to clear everyone else out of the room, leaving you with . . . any number of situations, but today we’ll be talking about The Strange Things Kids Bring to School. I’d been planning to share my personal dooziest of doozies sometime in the future, but when I recently heard about the unbelievable “gift” a colleague in my district received, I knew this topic just couldn’t wait. In the interest of full and balanced reporting I asked School Counseling by Heart’s Facebook and Twitter followers to share the strangest things kids have brought to their schools. Let me just say: Oh Lordy! and This stuff does not only happen in Vermont!
What do you know, some themes emerged. Take for instance,
A kitten in a backpack. Chickens in a cage (they rode the bus.) A chicken egg. Chicken poop. Four uncaged rats who came to a parent-teacher conference (parent-teacher-rodent conference?) I shudder to say this, because I may be bringing a curse upon my head, but I don’t think we’ve had any unexpected live animals come to school, unless, of course you count lice and bedbugs, which I try not to.
A dead kitten (thankfully not the same one as above.) A raccoon head. A deer head. A newly dead ferret, who, like the family of rats above, attended a parent-teacher conference. Let me just state for the record that I may discontinue my practice of attending parent-teacher conferences! We recently got word that a squirrel carcass was in a backpack, but it turned out to be merely a squirrel pelt. A fresh one, granted, but thankfully (for us) gutless. I once had a student say she was going to bring in the um, leftovers after her calf (which she had named for the most popular boy in her grade) was, as she put it “de-balled.”
The Potentially Lethal
A cake made with glue and other toxic substances, which was shared at lunch, sending 8-10 students to the hospital. Live ammunition (the letter of the week in kindergarten was B, and yes, bullets do start with B!) A whole “arson-al” of lighters.
Loot from the Sticky-Fingered
We’ve had a few Artful Dodgers pass through our school, who collectively have been relieved of parents’ credit cards, grandmother’s reading glasses (several pairs over time), a $50 bill (a lot of money for most of our families), car keys, hunting knives (see also Potentially Lethal.) None of my stories, however, top this, shared by a reader: a Caucasian 8th grader brought an African-American baby to school and wouldn’t say who it belonged to! Really, you can’t make this stuff up!
The “Toy” Party Favors
A lighter/taser shaped like a stripper. A “doggie style” button. (Just try explaining to a third grader why that phrase is inappropriate. I can’t even remember what I said, but I do remember that I could hear my blood pounding!) Another gift from a third grader – different kid, different year – gave my new intern quite a fabulous entrée into our field. She showed up at my door, red-faced and wide-eyed and said, in a squeaky, choking voice, “So-and-so has on a dildo necklace! What am I supposed to do?” You know that moment when your intern is still in that blessedly simple state where she thinks you know everything and can solve every problem, but you know she’s about to crash hard into the jagged rocks of reality and find out that sometimes you’re just winging it too? That was this moment! After closing my gaping mouth, I shared some thoughts and encouragement and sent her on her way, a fully fledged member of our tribe. Baptism by fire. Or dildo necklace. Either way, mighty uncomfortable.
The Remains of the Day
By far the most unbelievable rogue show-and-tell happened to a counselor in my district. And boy did I give thanks to whoever drew the neighborhood school lines when I heard this one! Here’s what one of her students brought to school: HIS DEAD BROTHER!!! I am not making this up! My colleague was only slightly relieved to find that what other kids meant by “his dead brother” was cremated remains. The box that held them had been passed around the bus on the way to school. When she called the mother to tell her that the boy had brought it to school, the mother calmly told her that it was all right, and she should just send it home with him on the bus. My colleague thought better of that, and put the box on her desk, where it stayed until later in the week when the mom moseyed in to pick it up. I think this one just HAS to win the prize, don’t you?
Not quite as dramatic, and unrelated to death – although certainly FULL of mortification – happened during my first year of counseling, when I was filling a long-term sub position at my son’s school. Yes, you guessed it, my kid was the one who brought in the unbelievable thing. Before I proceed with this true confession, let me just assure you that the boy in question is now a fully grown, functional adult with enough ego strength to survive the public proclamation of his folly. Also, he deserves it! You will no doubt be mightily impressed with the forbearance and magnanimity on my part that resulted in his fifth grade self NOT being banished, grounded for life, or sent to military school. And what, pray tell, did this offspring of mine bring to school? MY BIRTH CONTROL! Oh yes, you read that correctly, he took my birth control out of my dresser, put it in his backpack, and took it to school to show his friend. Who of course told someone else. Of course.
I was in the middle of teaching a third grade class when the secretary appeared at the door and beckoned me to the hall to share this highly mortifying fact. She thought it was hilarious, and for some reason thought it was a good idea to interrupt my class to tell me that he was in the principal’s office. Despite the fact that I had turned fifty shades of pink, I somehow pulled myself together enough to finish the class, and then took my own personal walk of shame back down to the office.
At that time my space was right next to the principal’s. It was a beautiful, warm May day and both of us had our windows open. The principal had a booming, I-mean-business voice, and I could clearly hear him saying, “If you’re man enough to bring this to school, you’re man enough to tell me where you got it!” I was trying to fold myself up into invisible when he stuck his head in my door and asked me to join them. Right before we entered his room, he flashed me a big grin, which he immediately erased so as not to let on to my boy that he was amused. Let’s just say that the kid told the truth about where he got it (yay?), the principal handed me back my birth control, and I died a hundred little deaths.
The boy got sent off to clean the cafeteria tables while thinking about what he was going to write in his apology letter, and I got surrounded by my exceedingly entertained colleagues who thought it was really one of the greatest things to happen in a long time. I would have had to agree – if it had been somebody else’s kid! It all had a happy ending, I suppose. The kid lived to tell the tale, never made a mistake like that one again, and I got hired for the permanent position. Quite possibly it had something to do with the fact that the principal was pretty confident that I wouldn’t be needing to take a maternity leave, but still.
So the next time you’re on the receiving end of a dead ferret, live rats, a dildo necklace, or somebody’s dead brother, just be glad it wasn’t your kid who brought it in. Also, keep your birth control where your kid can’t find it. Just saying.
You might also be interested in: