Then I realized that I had never really shared my story on my site or blog. Now almost ten years in I have plenty of stories to share like most veterans. I have given the Heimlich, and had a child rushed to ICU ( directly from my classroom) but I don't think I have even written about THE POSSUM. So below I share my own personal story, " The Teacher that Almost Wasn't."
It was my first year teaching. First four months teaching to be specific. I feel like I must start the story this way or people will wonder how I ever continued teaching.
I was pulled out of the classroom in the morning to a meeting and a substitute was watching my class file in and complete their typical morning routine. Apparently “typical” on this day may be a stretch. The day continued without any unusual ruckus until recess.
We bundled up for recess because the day seemed unusually cool for April. I watched my fourth grade class play on the large field and paid particular attention to a group of girls congregating in a large, suspicious lump. As I made my way to the clump of girls they began quickly moving in the opposite direction. Busted.
I caught up with the girls expecting to find contraband lipstick or blush. Instead I got a wild animal. A possum to be exact. Not just any possum, a bleeding, wounded baby possum. I stood there gaping at the baby possum, wrapped up in the girl’s jacket (the child stuffed the possum in her book bag all day and then wrapped it in her jacket to take it out to recess and show it off. Gah) that was now in MY arms.
How did it come to school exactly? Apparently the girl’s dog attacked the mother and several baby possums at the bus stop. The little girl had always wanted a pet so she “rescued” one baby possum and swept it into her book bag where it had stayed the day.
Staring at the poor animal, I carried it over to the other veteran teacher on the playground and asked him what to do. He said to release it in the nearby woods and then notify the office. It was pitiful really. The animal was obviously in a lot of pain and dying. I carried it to the woods and gently laid it on the ground feeling so terribly for the possum.
After asking the other teacher to watch my class I marched up to the office, wanting to throw up. Or cry. Or both. How would I ever explain this to my principal? I peeked into her office and stammered through the entire story. Looking back she was so calm- she was retiring in a few weeks. I think that must have helped. She asked me where the animal was and when I told her I released it in the woods she frowned. Hmmm. Apparently testing it for rabies would be difficult now.
RABIES! RABIES? I hadn’t even considered this possibility! We went to the woods looking under bushes and checking under logs to see if we could find the possum. Apparently it must have crawled off to die in peace. There would be no checking for rabies.
When I pulled in that original cluster of girls in the hall that afternoon and asked them if any had been scratched or bitten by the possum, I almost lost my lunch. All seven children had bitten, scratched or both. I began thinking that I would be a great secretary. Or bank teller. Or Liberian.
That afternoon I typed a letter notifying them of the unusual afternoon. I still have the infamous letter saved. I had to call and explain to each bitten or scratched child’s parents and tell them to look for signs of rabies. I had to tell them to look for FOAMING MOUTHS.
Miraculously, no one got sick. Even more miraculous, all parents understood. Not a single angry letter- no letters to the board or even principal. Even more astounding, the child that brought in the possum called to APOLOGIZE to me.
How times have changed. That was almost ten years ago. No matter how bad it gets in my classroom, or how wild my students get, I always remind myself that it is better than a wild possum.