Time for a serious talk


I love ten year olds!  I do.

They are old enough to handle all of their own bathroom needs, but still young enough to hug.  They are poised perfectly between five and fifteen years old, swinging effortlessly from pop music to leggos, from fashion to crayons.

I love them!

But sometimes a teacher comes upon a situation which calls for a Really Serious Talk.

Last week I faced just such a situation, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed at first.

These children are absolutely delightful. They are warm, funny, eager and full of love.  They do what I ask them to do, and they are always seeking my approval.

But the situation had been brewing since the year began, and I had to act.

So after lunch last Wednesday, as the kids came in and gathered around me on the rug, I decided to just be direct, and tell them what was on my mind.   It was a beautiful day, warm and bright, and they had spent a happy half hour outside on the playground, racing over the grass and playing ball together.  I sat in my comfortable chair, and leaned toward them.  “Boys and girls”, I began.  They turned toward me, cheeks flushed from the sun, hair still damp from their recess exertions.  I hated to say anything that might upset them.

“Boys and girls, I have some really wonderful news for you.”   How could I phrase this delicately, in a way that wouldn’t embarrass or shame them?

I cleared my throat, scratched my nose, and took a dep breath.  I could see some of the kids glancing toward each other nervously.

“So,” I said with a smile, “The good news is that you are really growing up! Its wonderful how children grow up!  So wonderful!”  My smile felt like a grimace, and I knew that I was babbling.

Time to talk about my own kids; that always seems to help with these difficult topics.

“I remember when my kids were little.  I loved how sweet they smelled when they came inside on warm days like today.  I loved to hug them, and breathe in that sweet baby sweat!!”  I grinned and most of those children grinned back. So far so good!

Now for the hard part.

“Then they grew up.  Kinda like you!  And when they ran around outside, they still got pretty sweaty.”  Light was beginning to dawn, and I heard a few anxious giggles.

I kept going.

“And when they got older, like about your age, they started to get a little……um….” What word would capture the essence of what I needed to convey?  “Well, they started to get a little stinky.”

Now they were all giggling, and some held hands over their mouths, as if trying to hold it all in.

“And they realized that it was time to start taking showers every single day! And I bought them all lovely little presents called deodorant.”

They squirmed, they snorted, they made funny little faces, but they understood what I meant. I waited a minute to see if anyone would ask a question or make a comment, but they were silent except for the muffled laughter.

I stood up to cross the rug, planning to open a window or two.  I stepped over the sneakers and socks that had been slipped off as they settled on the rug.

“Now.” I said briskly, “Let’s talk about feet.


13 responses to this post.

  1. I used to teach 5th and 6th graders…I feel your pain! When they returned from Phys Ed class, my classroom got quite, um, pungent 🙂


  2. I keep some sticks of wet dog, smelly garbage, old dumpster, and low tide in a basket near the sink. I actually print labels and cover the brand names. It lifts their spirits (with humor) as well as the odors. Thanks for your continued solidarity.


  3. I bought my son a stick of deodorant last year, in third grade, knowing that he wouldn’t use it much but in hopes that he would think it was cool when he wanted to use it. I’m hoping it will make the transition smoother and less smellier when the time comes! I can’t imagine a classroom full of these kids! I think I see why the older kids at my kids’ school have PE at the end of the day. 😉


    • Haha! Those are two great ideas! Early deodorant gifts and PE at the end of the day!
      Its usually not a problem in fifth grade until April or May, but this year’s kids have “bloomed” a bit early. Of course, now that I have brought it up, our next problem will be overapplication of 24 different body sprays. Better refill my inhaler prescription!


  4. YES! Well done couching of the important talk with personal reflection and humor. I like your style. =)


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