Hands Up!

Hands up if you’ve ever brushed your teeth in school…..in a classroom…..with every other child in your class?

Wait, let me count. Hands right up……That would be nearly none, I’m thinking. Very close to zero. And, quite possibly, a what the hell is she talking about? Yeah, me too.

Why the hell has it become the case that teachers have now become responsible in many schools for the dental hygiene of the weans?

And I don’t mean teaching the children about the benefits of good oral hygiene, how necessary it is to reduce intake of sugary and acidic foods to allay the onset of dental caries. Neither do I mean carrying out a little project looking at the composition of the tooth from enamel through to nerve. Nor looking at the dental formula for canines, incisors and molars. Nor looking at a model of the human tooth while identifying all the ways to keep them healthy and avoid the dreaded filling or extraction.

No. I’m talking about 30 odd toothbrushes, in a handy plastic covered box, distributed each day to every child who then lines up to have a little bit of toothpaste squirted on it by teacher. Then have the whole toothbrushing experience timed for two minutes while Miss issues appropriate instructions.

If there is anything that gets my gag reflex going it is being in the same room as someone brushing their teeth. I don’t quite know why but it is akin, for me, to having someone scrape their nails down a chalkboard. I shudder. I suppress as best I can a salivary onslaught that threatens to induce vomit.

I witnessed this little spectacle recently and tried with every fibre of my being not to boak at the sound and sight of so many engaged in what I think is quite a personal task.

I use an electric one so I hear its gentle buzz rather than the sound of a brush on teeth. But I can’t even be in the same room as my kids when they brush. I did it in the early days and even brushed them for them when they were young. But that’s a bit like changing your own wean’s shitty nappy. Can do.

My main point here, however, is less to do with this nauseating practice than it is to do with the fact that parental responsibility is either being hijacked or abrogated and I’m fed up with teachers being asked to carry the can for every task that was once the responsibility of parents.

There is so much more that I could write here. And I intend to.

I’m looking at education in a different light these days. Have been for some time. But it’s coming to a head. Rising, as it were. A bit like the bile I feel rising in my throat every time I attend another meeting where we, as teachers, are informed of the latest piece of nonsense that is now ours to carry. While I question, ‘What about literacy and numeracy?’

As it happens, I consider myself something of an expert on multiple aspects of education. But I never signed up to be a feckin’ dentist.