Flinging Boogers


The summer of 1980 was a good one except for the looming reality that I would have Mrs. McLaughlin for fourth grade come September. Mrs. McLaughlin was a veteran and had been teaching the same lessons in math, English, and social studies for more years than my mother had been alive. I was lucky to be assigned to her class, but if I was to believe the rumors being repeated by my classmates, my school year would suck because Mrs. McLaughlin routinely and unapologetically picked her nose and flung her boogers across the classroom.

In my nine-year-old heart, I knew it was probably not true and illegal for a teacher to do such a thing, but I had to wonder how the rumor got started in the first place. I rationalized that maybe she only did it once or twice when she was a rookie and the story simply grew legs, like how ingesting Pop Rocks and drinking a coke immediately afterwards was suicide. Still, for me, even one booger fling was one too many and when the school year started, I watched Mrs. McLaughlin like it was my job. And I swear to you, not once did that woman pick her nose and fling it. She always used a tissue, just like she was supposed to do.

Now that I am a mom, I am keenly aware of the same kind of rumors surrounding my kids’ teachers, but this time they aren’t being repeated by other children but by grown women. Years ago, my daughter was assigned to a teacher that had a very bad reputation. According to local legend, she was really mean, and her students were miserable. As a result, my daughter didn’t have any friends in her class because the moms who were “in the know” had long before met with the appropriate authorities to make sure their kids wouldn’t be assigned to her class. Actually, that’s not true. There was one friend, and I was relieved, but on the first day of school, we learned that even that girl was moved to another class.

I was beside myself, and called the principal to complain. I didn’t ask for my daughter to be moved, but I wanted him to know how wrong it was for him to take requests from parents based on rumors. In my rage, I may have even shared with him the booger flinging story from my childhood.

As you can guess, my daughter’s teacher that year wasn’t mean. She was fine; great, in fact, and was quite dedicated to her students. Her only transgression, I remember, was not knowing what an Angry Bird was.

Today, I am waiting for an email from my kids’ school that will let me know what teacher they will have. If the rumors this year are true, one of my kids could get a teacher who has ridiculously high standards and unrealistic expectations and as a result will completely erode his confidence. In addition, I am worried that my other child will get a teacher who for whatever reason just doesn’t care anymore.

I try to rise above all of the chatter, but admittedly, it’s hard. I really do not know what I am going to do if my son gets the “tough” teacher. I have only seen her from a distance yet I am petrified of her. I am going to want to be strong for him, but I am afraid he is going to see me sweating and I certainly don’t want to lie to his face that everything is going to be OK. For him, Armageddon may be coming and I want him to be prepared.

With my other son, if his teacher really just doesn’t care anymore, that would mean it’s up to me to teach him new math and we all know how well that is going to go.

We will see what happens, but for now, I remain blissfully unaware of what teachers they will get and by default how the school year will be. It almost makes me want summer to never end. Almost.