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.

38 thoughts on “Hands Up!”

  1. Whilst bemused at the audacity some idiot has in coming up with this latest piece of nonsense I can only sit here and say to myself that it is for reasons like this that I didn’t survive as a teacher. I loved imparting knowledge on others, seeing the gleam in someone’s eyes when they really understood something and enjoyed what you were teaching them but this has taken things a step too far. Whilst I now teach adults in a much more mundane environment at least I can have the confidence that I will never be on teeth brushing duty! 🙂

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    1. I’ve survived during years of ill-conceived nonsense. But I do sometimes wonder how or why. 😉 Good luck with the adults. I’m sure that must bring its own challenges. 🙂 x

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  2. Well said! I have a friend, who having a college education in elementary education, was only able to get a job in the school system that echoed her first career, that of a dental hygienist. She went to several schools equipped with toothbrushes, toothpaste and models to teach kids how to brush properly. What she found out, is that in many of the schools she went to the kids had to share a toothbrush at home with their siblings. I was appalled at this thought that there were so many homes in southern California that were so poverty stricken they couldn’t afford a toothbrush for each child. I agree though, parental responsibility is on decline and educators are filling in for what used to be parents.

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    1. I’m pretty amazed at that too. I wouldn’t have thought that, even in financially strapped circumstances, the cost of a toothbrush would be a hardship. They’re so readily available for pennies in supermarkets. Just goes to show. Young children in the schools here are issued with a toothbrush and toothpaste to take home, on a fairly regularly basis, to encourage good habits. The issue seems to be with the fact that many do not practise them at home so the school is one place where it will be done. It’s a sort of pass the buck situation, I’m sorry to say.x

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  3. The Scottish primary school have the kids brushing their teeth as a class which is supervised by a PSA well the Schools are suppose to but it will depend on time as you will know 😊 x

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    1. I, fortunately, have not had to do it as I’m in and out of lots of classes and the class teacher is responsible for this one. But, I’ve had to be in on it in a few instances. And, Oh god, I had to force myself not to retch. 😉 x

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  4. Did I read this right? 30 toothbrushes each day delivered? A new toothbrush daily? Tad extreme and expensive if that’s the case, don’t the weans parents make sure they are keeping up with their oral hygiene ffs? I’m a bit like you though, I’m ok with the brushing noise, but I can’t stand to see people spit out the frothy, foaming paste wwwwww lol 🙂 x

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    1. Not each day, no. A fresh batch is delivered every so often and stored in the class. But each day the children are to brush their teeth in class. I was on tenterhooks thinking of all the spitting. But they didn’t have to. A very small amount of toothpaste is used and the kids don’t get to spit. At least, not that I’ve witnessed! Swallow and then on to the next subject after storing the toothbrushes for the next day. Bizarre, I feel. 😉 x

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  5. That is ridiculous and a complete waste of time. I don’t want my kid missing out on learning time because she’s waiting on kids to brush! Let the kids have rotten teeth and teach them to read, maybe they’ll learn some self-reliance and brush on their own. maybe its because schools (our schools at least) are doling out far too much sugar in an attempt to reward. Either way, that is nonsense.

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    1. There have been issues with dental decay in Scotland (can’t speak for the rest of the UK). Some of it is neglect on the part of parents, pure and simple. Some has been poor advice on what is appropriate in terms of food/drink consumption. For example, years ago I lived near someone whose daughter was the same age as my eldest. Her daughter hardly had a tooth left in her mouth – long before the natural occurrence of tooth loss. Turns out she was giving her daughter ‘infant’ juice in a bottle. The stuff was rotting her child’s teeth. Too late after the fact of tooth loss to know that a) she should not have been giving her daughter this in a bottle and b) it should have been diluted to the point of no taste. It was advertised as a child’s drink, Sold as a child’s drink. The mother knew no better. Now those are not the only reasons. There are way too many sweets and acidic/sugary drinks consumed. People neglect to take responsibility for their child’s overall health. And, yadda, yadda. You know this stuff.
      The Scottish government decided on a plan of intervention to address this issue. Quite rightly. They introduced communal supervised toothbrushing to the nursery stage children. And it has grown to encompass primary school.
      While it is laudable that they are taking action, I feel they are missing some vital points here. Namely, parental education. And possibly legislation that forces manufacturers to reveal the possible implications of eating/drinking in excess of certain things. Part of me wants to say that common sense should be the motivating force here. But, it is apparent, that that commodity is in short supply.
      The answer then that becomes available is to compel teachers to take on the burden of what is a parental responsibility. I fear it is because no political party will do anything that irks potential voters. Even if it’s the truth.
      We therefore have ridiculous measures taken in schools to address problems with children on many fronts because parents aren’t doing their jobs.
      It is evident in diet, in behaviour, in manners, in attitudes, in values, sex education, drug awareness, anti-bullying. Oh, I could go on Kerry. As well you know. 😉 But it is something that is becoming a major influence and factor in the value of education. Simple arithmetic makes it evident that if primary school teachers are spending their time addressing matters that were once the responsibility and privilege of the parents then less time is spent on essential subjects, subjects core to learning.
      Sorry for the massive response. But it so gets my goat. And this is just the tip of what I’m looking at.x

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      1. I can only imagine. Working in the school system must be so very rewarding but also depressing at the same time. I wish there were more classes for parents who just don’t know or don’t have good intuition on what is healthy and good for their kids rather than taking up valuable school time. Would they take the classes though? Probably not. But maybe it is good for kids to know if their parents don’t. I don’t have the answers, I really wish I did. It is all so convoluted.

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      2. Parenting education would be one option. It’s not like it comes with a manual so any information would surely be helpful. I know I muddled along with my first…and second…well, most of it is muddling along, actually. 😉 But there’s an expectation of common sense and some knowledge of basic requirements that help you learn the needs and adapt to circumstances and individual children. It’s the idea that all lack of parenting knowledge and willingness to embrace responsibility should be covered by the schools. Definitely a can of worms when it comes to the politics of parenting. No one wants to give or cause offence. Possible voters don’t you know. So educate the kids on basic hygiene and they might pass it along to the parents? Cart pulling the horse, I think. And I know it’s not just in education.
        I had a lovely day out with my eldest yesterday and she was saying some similar things about hospitals. The scope of responsibility of nurses is increasing too. And not all to do with healthcare. But I won’t go into that here. Whole other post. As is social work, where every fatality or instance of neglect that occurs drops at their door and the perpetrators are almost secondary in the equation. We really live in a weird society when so much of common sense and basic parenting has gone out the door.
        Thank god, and I do realise, that these instances are not in the majority by a long shot.
        I see and know that the majority of parents are doing a damn fine job often under trying circumstances. Going the whole nine yards then onto the marathon. It’s just that the usual knee-jerk reaction to any problem is to create a new rule and everyone has to abide whether it reflects the bigger picture or not. Part of a bigger problem.
        Thanks for your comments, Kerry. It’s good to know what others feel on these subjects.x

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  6. I have to agree with every word here. What on earth is happening to teaching the things children are supposedly attending school for? Has some twerp or antiquated bad breath monitor decreed all possibility of an errant bad breath day be eliminated?
    I realise this seems trite but how can anyone be reassured that our children are being educated if their main concern is dental hygiene? Do we have a rise in dental decay in childhood I haven’t heard about? Surely getting rid of sugary cereal and lollies are the answer (please don’t pillory me)
    As for the rest….. I’m (gulp) speechless (gulp….gulp).
    Susan x

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    1. All of that, Susan. Complete sense. There has been an issue of childhood dental decay in Scotland. For many reasons. And there are answers to it. I’ve just given a rather long-winded response to Kerry on more or less the exact same thing. So, I won’t bore by repetition. Although God knows it bears repeating. My concern principally is that teachers are becoming the new care-givers when that role should be and has been, by tradition and right, the responsibility and privilege of the parents. My head is spinning with the implications of where this could go if given full reign. Scary when I think about it. It’s like the end of family.x

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      1. Family appears to be disintegrating I’m afraid. The feeling seems to be that parents are no longer competent to make sure their children follow proper dental hygiene.
        I found this in different areas when I was involved with the School Council with my children’s school (too many years ago). Then it was the breakfast issue and the P&C was tasked with opening the school canteen in the mornings so children could get something to eat. It was horrifying the numbers who turned up.
        It sounds as though this is another similar ploy by the powers that be.
        Cynicism lay down your head!
        Susan x

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      2. I think it’s political. Truly some don’t know what they’re about. It’s a steep learning curve. And if people struggle with it there are measures that can be taken. But no one wants to tackle the route cause. So we get to carry the can. Sad. But too true, I fear. 😉 x

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  7. Couldn’t teachers just explain how to do it and explain the importance of brushing to the kids? Though I don’t think this was taking things too far, ’cause it wasn’t, I do think it wasn’t necessary either. Besides, the teacher’s lecture on brushing should just serve as supplement to what the parents should be teaching their children themselves already. Do parents really need to wait until their kids can go to school before the wee ones can learn how to brush?

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    1. It’s way too far for me, I’m afraid. By quite some way. Education, yes. Instruction, yes. Modelling, yes. Providing for essential education so that the children can read and write and count proficiently and make decisions; question the world; the whys and wherefores; be the best they can be. Yes to all of these. Depleting time available by being surrogate mum and dad to every child while those who are the parents abrogate or are denied that responsibility? Sorry. Not my job. And I don’t want anyone taking my job as parent. We each have our roles to play. In school, I am an educator that will do all sorts to ensure fun and fruitful learning. At home, I’m mum. I’ll even be mum in class if that is what a child needs at any given time. But a whole class of children becoming my children, to take on the responsibilities of the parent. Nope. I have seven of my own. I seriously don’t need more.x

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  8. I’m not surprised by this. More and more, the school system is picking up the slack left by parents who seem to confuse what is their job and what the school’s job is. I mean, we’re teaching how to say “please” and “thank you”, how to be respectful (of adults and peers)…and since it’s something that has to be taught, it must be the school’s job, right? *eyeroll*

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    1. Oh, there is most definitely a perception that any slacking on the part of society should be picked up in schools to fill the gap, as it were. But it doesn’t work in any complete sense. We can talk and teach till we’re blue in the face but if there is no family support, or rather leadership, in these areas it’s an exercise in futility much of the time. Children reveal their home lives in words and actions time and again. Unless the two are working in some sort of harmony it is something of a nonsense. The expectations of behaviour and manners to others needs to be something that is pervasive across their lives for results to be realised. The whole village approach, you know? Quite a worrying trend when the school is expected to become the parent in all areas. I don’t want this as a parent let alone as a teacher. Togetherness not instead of. x

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  9. Brushing the teeth is not a problem, its the stink in the boys toilet, it is putrid, the cleaners say they can do their best but I refused to enter even to get the kids to hurry!!! 😠

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    1. I know! Cleaners are only allowed to use certain equipment that doesn’t really do the job. And only a certain amount of time to get through them. Everything’s a time and motion study. 😉 x

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  10. Just thinking about the teeth thing it brought a memory to the surface from when I was at primary school in the 60’s. We were brought into the hall and there was a guy with a huge toothbrush and another with a large bar of soap and they were there to talk about hygiene, how to wash, how to clean out teeth, we also had a visit by the nit nurse at the same time. At the end of the talk which felt like hours every one of us were given a bar of soap, a sponge with a face on it, a toothbrush and a tube of tooth paste.
    You have to remember that we were poor and so was the majority of the kids who went to school, we still had a tin bath and bath night was Sunday, my younger siblings were bathed in the stone sink, while more hot water was heated in 4 large pots on the gas cooker. We didn’t have running hot water as we lived in the back of a shop store, 1 living room, 1 kitchen and 3 bedrooms and a outside loo, the washing was done in a hot tub which was kept with the ringer in the large workshop sized coal and wood store.
    After my mother was remarried they bought the whole property and then the workshop was turned into a bathroom and kitchen extension. My mothers friend Pam, lived in the next street but her back yard went on to the alley so when she had a bathroom put in we used to go there, they were posh, so my grandmother used to say…..”They are posh, I bet they get out the bath to pee”

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    1. Ooh, you were posh!
      I was born in the living room of a room and kitchen!
      One bedroom. The kitchen doubled as a living-room with a double bed in a recessed area.
      I don’t actually remember it. We moved from there when I was two. But a tenement building with communal facilities and families squashed into living space that was waaaaay too small. An upgrade for us was moving to a two bedroomed flat. Bloody councils at the time didn’t give a monkeys whether you were overcrowded or not.
      I must be posh now though! Eight rooms and three toilets/bathrooms. Just off to polish my tiara! 🙂 x

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  11. My head is spinning. I cannot reconcile the state of education today with my experience from the 1960’s. Everyday I learn of a new brand of surreal. And yours is my story for today. One on hand, how can I argue against good dental health? That’s not the point, is it? It’s adding yet another responsibility onto the teacher’s shoulders.

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    1. And reduces the time available for core subjects that increasingly take a back step to these other activities that belong elsewhere. Educating about it is one thing. Even providing the resources, fine. But everyday to be doing mum or dad’s job? Nope. We’ll be taking their washing in next when kids get dropped off for breakfast clubs! Blows my mind where it could all go with enough licence given. 😉 x

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  12. I remember moving to the room behind store, I was about 6 we used to live in a tenement it was shared loo with 4 other families, it looked over the railway lines to the waste ground which was called the ‘bomb site’ as it was bombed during WWII and even as a 10 year old there used to be signs around it saying caution unexploded devices and incendiary bomb. My wife calls me a minger because she had a bathroom lol.

    I told the kids when I worked at the school and they thought I was joking lol.

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      1. I know shameful isn’t it, the thing is in the UK in the 21st century there are still people living like that, there is still slavery, there is still sweatshops and people made to work for little or no money. I don’t think society has not learnt a single lesson….

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  13. When i first started reading this..I was nodding yes….I remember. BUT what I remember was one time they passed out some little tablets that turned your teeth pink in all the spots you had missed brushing…passed out little travel size tooth brushes and toothpaste so we could take turns “properly” brushing all the crud off. ((AND that was bad enough)

    But you are describing is just beyond my comprehension. Why is this the teacher”s/school’s responsibility?

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    1. Oh, I’d forgotten all about the plaque disclosers. Yeah, that was bad enough. This is a whole new realm of yeuch. In efforts to reduce dental decay this is the answer apparently. Boggles my brain. And turns my guts. 😦 x

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