Friday, January 22, 2010


“A) No tattooing, piercing of genitalia, branding or scarification shall be performed on a person under the age of eighteen.”*

I was called back to the school where I subbed for fifth-grade two days last week, but this time I was back in the middle school. The last name I was given for the absent teacher didn’t ring a bell, so I wasn’t sure what job I’d have, but I'd at least be familiar with the students. When I arrived, it turned out I’d be subbing for the Social Studies teacher (Yay! I’m actually certified to teach this subject). The only downside is that she has an office between classrooms, but doesn’t have her own classroom. The upside is that three out of four of her classes are in the Science room. A couple of times, I’ve subbed for the Science teacher, and found myself kicked out of the room most of the day so the Social Studies teacher could use the room.

While I was reading the sub plans, another sub came to the room. He thought he was subbing for the same teacher. Because she got married last year, and had a name change, I thought there had been two calls for the same job – one from the secretary using her maiden name, and one from the teacher using her first name. Just as I was preparing to do rock-paper-scissors to see who would get the job (Or I could stamp my foot, shouting “I was here first!”), it turned out that the other substitute was actually here for Math. There were three substitute teachers in the middle school, which I hoped wouldn’t make these zany students any zanier.

The plans that the teacher left were thorough – a stark contrast to the poor plans and missing supporting materials I dealt with yesterday. I’d have four classes, three different lessons, the directions were clear, the textbooks I needed were opened the proper pages with sticky notes providing the correct grade and time information were attached, and the overheads that corresponded with the chapters were included. She didn’t assume I could play piano or play CD’s without providing a CD player.

The first group was quiet and did their work. Since I’m not as familiar with the eighth-graders, having mostly taught sixth and seventh at this school, I didn’t know what to expect. Did this mean they were part of ISP (Intensive Studies Program)? Turns out no, just good students. But the next eighth-grade class might not be as cooperative.

The best part of this job is that I knew a lot of information, which I could add to the lessons. Since it was my subject, and I wasn’t just given handouts or a DVD to show, so I actually could contribute to the lessons.

The seventh-graders during second period started off fine, until ten minutes into class, when two of the most difficult students showed up after helping out with setting up a bake sale to raise money for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Apparently they ate too much sugar because they were bouncing off the walls, and their rambunctious ways spread like a virus to several other boys. Getting the entire class to quiet down and concentrate at once became an exercise in futility. I should’ve been firmer, but they’d never been this loud, and I found it harder to change personas midway. So I became persona non grata, or rather, they became personae non gratae.

Third period went better than second, although I had to use my harder voice – louder with a lower tone, like the absent teacher. If I had to do that all day, I’d have no voice left. There were a bunch of boys, who kept trying to misbehave, but I was on top of them (A LOT of work on my part), and they eventually gave up. (There was a brief interruption when a ladybug landed on a hat.)

After having three hour-long classes in a row, I was glad for a break, if just to pee. My last class was working on pamphlets about hurricanes. When a few finished just minutes into class, I worried because no alternative work was left. My solution was to let those who finished help those who were woefully behind, since these were due at the end of class. It was a nice group, who mostly stayed in their seats and talked quietly.

This gave me time to just talk to them. Two students just joined the school in the last week – one from California (an avid reader) and the other from a private school in Cambridge (I got the impression from his stories that he got kicked out). At the same table, a girl showed me her tongue piercing, which floored me (And made me nauseous). What was she, fourteen or fifteen-years-old?

“It hurtsss!” She complained.

“Does your family know you have it?” I asked.

“Of courssse.” Oh yeah, that’s a ridiculous question.

“I guess you couldn’t hide it anyway.”

“Yesss, I could.”

“It changes the way you speak.”

“No, it doesn’t,” she insisted.

From behind her, her friend mouthed, Yes it does, and I tried to refrain from laughing.

Then the pierced girl said, “My mom’s throwing a tattoo party, and I’m gonna get a tattoo.”

“You are?”

“Yes, I’m gonna get my name on my hip.” She pulled the side of her jeans down to show me the planned spot.

At that moment, I was more tongue-tied than she was.

“B) Body piercing, other than piercing the genitalia, may be performed on a person under the age of 18 provided that person provided that person is accompanied by a properly identified parent, legal custodial parent or legal guardian who has signed a form consenting to such a procedure.”*

* How many of you are like me, and learned a new word: scarification?

This information on “Model Regulations for the Body Art Establishments January 23, 2001”,massachusetts,1.htm


  1. Hi

    What a change from yesterday's classes. As always I'm agog at how you keep so together in the face of disruptive behaviour. I hope you don't have to use your "harder voice" too often!

    I always wondered how people with a stud in the middle of their tongue eat? It just looks so uncomfortable and yes, it probably does change how a person would sound with their "s's". I suppose the mum of the girl about to have the tattoo is in a way bonding with her child in the only way she knows how? Allowing for the tongue piercing etc? I only hope it's all done properly and above all with care and hygienically. I hope so.

    Take care

  2. Old Kitty, this was a varied week. The woman I subbed for always uses that voice, but I think her voice is deeper than mine to begin with. She does a smart thing - calls on a student who hasn't been paying attention, asking them to repeat what another student or a teacher says. I forgot that trick!

    When piercing all over became popular, the belly one always bothered me too. What if it got caught on your pants? I've heard the tongue one is the most painful as it heals. I wonder if it feels worse than when you bite your tongue?

  3. My cousin had a friend pierce his tongue and by the time I saw it, there was infection--all red and gang-green. He couldn't even talk. I only had one thing to say to him: "Serves you right, you moron." (Hee, hee.)

  4. Jackee, that's gross! Why do people do that to themselves?!

  5. I wonder how long her teeth are going to last with that piercing whacking into it all the time? I hate it when people with tongue rings drag it back and forth across the back of their teeth. The sound is horrible and I just cringe thinking of the damage their doing to their teeth. Can't they just bite their fingernails or pop their knuckles? *shudder*

  6. What an education from being a teacher. PS I want 100 tats.

  7. MODG, I have two tattoos - one on each shoulder, so now I can't wear sleeveless shirts to work.

  8. I was a sub for four years and it amazed me how one teacher would provide me with an organized stack of work, thorough notes, and plenty of extra activities while others left a sticky note and a video. Ugh!

    The tongue piercing must be miserable and is wholly inappropriate in my view. I feel sorry for the girl whose mom thinks it's fine to shoot ink into her fourteen year old's perfect, unmarred skin. Or to let her expose the flesh on her hip for admiration afterward. I shudder to think.

    I wanted a tattoo when I was in high school. A flower. On my ankle. By the time I was old enough to get one I didn't want one because of (a) the possibility of hepatitis (b) pain or (c) I wanted to be a lawyer and thought it might be difficult to be taken seriously with a happy little daisy inked on my leg.

  9. Lora, I don't know what's going on with this mother. I found it disturbing. At least the girl's skin was dark and it will be on her hip, so it won't stand out. The tongue piercing bothered me more.

  10. Have you actually observed sugar affecting behaviour in children?
    Several serious lab studies failed to reproduce the effect... And I find myself just as lethargic before ingesting sugar coated sugar bombs as I am after.
    Scarification is quite common is several tribal cultures around the world... and is also a fairly common body modification.

    When asked, people have given me all kinds of reasons for for undergoing Body Modification... Some trite and others not.

    At least with a tongue piercing, should the child ever decide it isn't worth the bother, she can remove and forget about it: it won't leave a visible trace (if Khnoum's experience is anything to go by). Perhaps the parent's idea was to let child experience the pain and inconvenience of a piercing in a place where it can be easily removed?
    Say, are you, and if you are, when are you going to let your daughter and/or son get their ears pierced?
    I imagine that you don't feel the same about tongue piercing as you do about ear piercing?
    May I ask what your tattoos are?

  11. @ Alesa, I don't think every child is necessarily susceptible to the effects of sugar, but for the ones that are jumpy anyway, I can see the difference.

    This is the same school I work out now. And I have this girl in one of my classes. Now that I know her story with her mom, I know it's her mom trying to be hip and relate to her daughter like a sister instead of a mother.

    My daughter's ears are pierced. She got them done when she was six. No, that doesn't bother me as much. Ear piercing doesn't have the same sexual connotation so it's more appropriate for kids and teens. So far, my son hasn't asked to be pierced.

    I have a fleur-de-lys on one shoulder and a cascade of roses (sketch style - not colored in) on the other.

  12. Sexual connotation? That hadn't occurred to me at all... I had to think back to pulp fiction to see what you meant. Shrug, Like many things (including words), a same thing means many things to many people... Shrug.

    Like the fleur de lis, for instance!
    Which means something radically different to a historian than it does to someone living in Quebec or in Louisiana. Do you have some secret undisclosed connection to the House of the Bourbons? ; j

  13. @ Alesa, in the US, tongue piercings have only one association. Being that you can't see them, but only feel them (and sometimes hear the person lisping), it's making a very specific statement.

    I got the fdl because I always liked the way they looked. Also because so many cultures and countries have adopted it, the symbol seems to fit with me. I'm a mix of so many things myself. Quebec and Louisiana are the last on a long list of adoptees that go back to the Hebrews and even the Egyptians.