Punishment is a harsh and cruel word that evokes images of shackles, guillotines and mouthfuls of soap. Certainly a word not to be used in the system which educates our cherished children. And it isn’t. Today it’s all about the reward. Of course if you don’t qualify for the reward it sort of feels like you’ve been punished but the irony of that gets lost in the whirl of pizza parties, movies and extra recesses.
At the school where I work, the reward for the month of December was slime. Slime, for those readers who are not Ghostbusters literate is a substance somewhere between jello and silly putty and kids love to fiddle with it. We assembled in the gym for the awards ceremony where the names of the bestowed were read. Then we witnessed the walk of shame where those hapless tantrum throwers and bad word repeaters left with the guidance counselor for “intervention”. It was then announced that the rest of the kids would return to their classrooms to make slime. At this announcement a deafening gasp of pure joy arose tantamount to a Price Is Right contestant being told they had just won a trip to Tahiti, a Lamborghini, and a Samsonite ditty bag.
I had been informed the night before via e-mail that I had been promoted from Slime Assistant to Leader of a Slime Activity. Not sure exactly what slime constituted and certainly never having made it I began to grow anxious. Being an art teacher I happened to have the ingredients in my store room, glue, liquid starch, and food color so that morning I made a small test batch. The result, which my students informed me was the right consistency, looked like a fast food jellyfish patty. Fears assuaged.
I got this.
Sixteen third graders arrived in my room for their half hour of not-rocket-science with delirious anticipation. I read the directions aloud. Step one. Pour 1⁄2 gallon of glue into the bowl provided. Done.
Whee! So easy. Step two. Pour 1/2 gallon of liquid starch into the bowl. But crap. The bowl provided is already full from the glue. I sent a runner to find a replacement container. Our allotted 1/2 hour is ticking away and I can see that this setback is starting to fray the nerves of the children who were promised a wee plastic bag- o-slime to take home. Finally a suitable tub arrived. Glue transferred. Starch poured. Happy aqua food coloring added. Now stir. The spoon provided turned out to be a plastic one better suited to stirring weak tea than cartoonish molten lava.
Tic. Tic goes our half hour.
“Well kids, I think we are just going to have to work this with our hands.” I didn’t precisely mean that all 16 should immediately push and shove and thrust their hands into the gelatinous gunk but that’s what happened. It’s at this point that I need to explain something that I found out in retrospect. The event organizers did not realize that the glue provided needed to be white glue not clear glue for the formation of the desired jiggly breast implant inspired hillock. While some stations got white glue and made awesome slime, guess which kind I received? It never solidified.
So all 16 hand stirrers now have this syrupy ooze running down their arms onto the table, onto their shoes, onto the floor and chaos ensues as they jockey for position at the one sink to scrub their hands and in some cases their hair while others in denial that this is a total train wreck try in vain to stuff their wee bag with dripping slop. Meanwhile the usually calm and sweet janitor comes by, witnesses the Slimeageddon and veins the size of bridge cables pop out on his forehead and neck.
One child had the audacity to start welling up with tears when she realized there was no way in hell she’d be allowed on a bus with her sticky baggie of dribble. I’m on my hands and knees with a spackle knife trying to scrape up ectoplasm so I said if anyone was going to cry it was going to be me. I might even have used the phrase “freaking disaster” which is definitely a No No around children. So next month for this transgression, I’ll miss the reward and take the punishment. What a relief.
– Margaret Baker, HashtagWV #110. February 2019.