This week is my last Good-Touch/Bad-Touch presentation of the school year. It’s probably going to be one of my last presentations ever. It’s weird. I’ve had a lot of really good times, funny times, and weird times. And now I’m going to share some of the highlights with you.
Elementary school kids are awesome at giving compliments. And I think compliments from kids are the very best kind of compliments because you know they aren’t just saying it to be nice. They really mean what they say! About once a week a kid (always a girl) will tell me I’m cute or pretty. Occasionally 4th and 5th grade girls will tell me they like my shirt or my shoes.
My very favorite compliment was when I was walking down the hall of a school and ran into a single-file line of 1st graders headed out to recess. I was greeted by a handful of kids exclaiming, “Hi, Miss Lindsey!” I had taught their class the week before. Then one girl said, “Miss Lindsey, you smell good!” A few children strayed a little from the line to smell me as well, “You do smell good!” It’s always nice to know that you smell nice.
I get lots of hugs from kids. Hugs have a domino effect on kids. It usually only starts with one kid giving a hug, and then a few other kids see it and want one too. One class made it a habit of giving me a group hug after every presentation. Imagine being hugged by twenty 6-year-olds at the same time. It was pretty intense. It took a couple of minutes to pry myself out of the classroom.
I’ve received some really heart-warming gifts from kids. Kids love giving gifts as much as they like giving compliments and hugs.
My favorite is this kite that a 5th grade girl gave to me.
A kindergarten girl gave me this necklace (I think it was the drawstring from her sweater) and sweetly told me, “I made this for you while I was listening.”
Occasionally I get little pictures too. I think this is a picture of a bracelet.
Once time I gave a gift (unintentionally). In nearly every school I’ve been to I put on the school’s visitor sticker so that teachers know I’ve checked in at the office. As I was leaving a classroom a boy called after me, “Hey Miss Lindsey! Can I have your sticker?” Slightly caught off guard (nobody had ever asked for my sticker before), I peeled the sticker from my shirt and handed it to the boy. As I walked away I remembered seeing collections of stickers on some of the desks. I hope I didn’t cause any contention in that classroom because he got my visitor sticker.
Speaking of visitor stickers, sometimes I’d forget to take them off and go nearly the whole day wearing a giant apple sticker on my shirt. I’m sure everyone thought I was pretty classy. Another awkward thing about my job is that lots of the schools in the area look almost exactly the same. Thus, sometimes I would walk into a school and have to pause for a minute to remember which school I was at and where my classroom was. It was also awkward when I’d get tongue-tied and say the wrong thing when talking about rule number five–it’s never my fault. Sometimes I accidentally said, “It’s never my fart.” How embarrassing.
Sometimes the kids said awkward things too, so I don’t feel too bad. A really important part of the curriculum is teaching kids to know that sometimes it’s ok for others to look at or touch private body parts when we need help or have a problem. With the younger kids we give the example of changing a baby’s diaper–it’s not sexual abuse because it’s helping. However, with the older kids, we let them come up with examples. I’ve told you about the time a 3rd grade boy talked about getting a physical to play sports (you can go back and read about it here). Another time a 4th grade boy began his example with this disclaimer, “Well, I don’t know if this is appropriate, but…” That always makes me nervous, because I expect a sex reference. However, he then bashfully explained that a mom breast-feeding her baby is not sexual abuse. Thankfully, at that age many kids have learned that sometimes it’s best to pretend awkward things didn’t happen. A younger class would have giggled like crazy.
I do get references to sex sometimes. When telling me examples about what is not sexual abuse, sometimes kids say, “When people are married…” and then they give me a shrug that tells me, “You know what I’m talking about, but I don’t want to say it out loud.” I can’t (and don’t want to) talk about sex to these kids, so all I say is, “Yeah, good example!” One third grade girl gave the example, “When a mom and dad want to have a baby.” I was totally floored. Although she had only a very simple working knowledge of sex and what it produces, it was definitely way more than I knew at age 8.
Sometimes kids say really random things. Once I asked a class a question, and a girl raised her hand to answer. However, instead of an answer, she excitedly told me all about how her family was going to see Disney on Ice the next day. They were going to stay in a hotel.
In the giant story book I read to the younger kids, Jonathan (the main character) thinks it might be kind of fun to be a toaster. Several pages after talking about being a toaster, a boy raised his hand and told me that his friend had a really expensive nice toaster, but there was no way of setting how long to put the toast in for, so the toast always got burned. So they got rid of the toaster. Random.
One time a child urgently asked me, “The tanks? Will they save the day?” I’m not sure what thought process led him to wondering about tanks. He was adorable, though. I saw him today and he asked if I would play tanks with him.
The older grades are really into the “What if…” questions. We cover stranger safety in 3rd and 4th grades, and they come up with the craziest scenarios. “What if you walked home from school and your mom wasn’t home, but there was a stranger there?” “What if somebody looked up your number in the phone book and then asked for your address?” Oh dear. Some of the scenarios are plausible, but most of them aren’t.
I’ve told you the pigeon story, but I have a couple other doozies up my sleeve. One time I asked a 2nd grade class if they remembered my name. They couldn’t remember. So I gave them a clue, “It starts with an L.” The class continued to struggle to come up with Lindsey. And then a boy bellowed, “Lucifer!” He was severely scolded by the teacher, but I thought it was funny.
But this is my all-time favorite Good-Touch/Bad-Touch story: We talk about bad touches (obviously), so one time I asked a kindergarten class to give me some names for bad touches. I usually look for answers like hitting, kicking, biting, pushing, etc… However one little boy gave me an unusual response. He had some speech issues, so what he answered was hard to make out, but it sounded an awful lot like, “Don’t touch the penis.” Now, had I been 100% sure of what he said, it really wouldn’t have been a big deal. I would have simply said, “That is a confusing touch and we’ll talk about that in a few minutes.” However, I couldn’t see this kindergartener as the type of child that would know and use that kind of terminology. So I hesitated. It’s so hard to respond to answers you can’t understand. Fortunately a student teacher was paying attention so she clarified for me, “He said don’t touch the bee’s nest.” The next day as we were reviewing, he mentioned the bee’s nest again. The parents in the room snickered; they’d heard penis too. So I clarified for him. Bee’s nest.
Funny and weird stories aside, there were a lot of things that I just loved. I love when kids see me and ask, “Hey! You’re Good-Touch/Bad-Touch?” One time I was at a concert for my orchestra job, and a kindergartener went out of her way to say hello to me because I’d gone to her class a few weeks before. I love when kids see me in the halls and say, “I still remember all the rules!”
One of my coworkers once had a teacher pull her aside after a presentation to tell her about a little girl who had previously been in her class and had Good-Touch/Bad-Touch. At the time of the presentations, this little girl had been repeatedly sexually abused over the prior month. However, she was too scared to tell someone about it. We hand out cards with all the body safety rules on them on the last day of every presentation, and so this little girl took her card home and put it in her jewelry box. She continued to be sexually abused, but she frequently took the card out of her jewelry box and read and re-read the rules. Finally, after four months of looking at this card, she got the courage to tell someone that she was being sexually abused.
I get a little teary-eyed every time I think about this story. I hope that every kid I come in contact with has the perfect childhood. I hope that none of the kids will actually need to use the rules. But I know it doesn’t pan out like that. Sexual abuse is a big problem, and there are kids out there who need to hear what I have to say. It’s hard to know how many kids I’ve actually helped, but I feel so privileged to have perhaps been a stepping stone leading some child to help.