Please wear deodorant and other sage advice

Feb 2, 2015 by

Please wear deodorant and other sage advice

27 twelve-year old kids poured through my door at precisely 7:30am. It was Friday. We were all tired. They smelled terrible.   Middle School Smells

Our school begins every Friday with a short assembly. Students in grades 5-8 gather in the cafeteria to hear the week’s achievements, clap for their peers’ perfect attendance and to collectively sing the national anthem. My job as their home room teacher is to line them up, get them there on time, and ensure their good behavior. This is generally not a problem because they are really, ridiculously awesome kids.

Today however, they were ridiculously smelly kids.

Seriously, there is no stench worse than that of an almost-teenager. Click To TweetThey were ripe. They were rotten. I’m fairly certain that many of them had not brushed their teeth in days.

Add all that up, and stir in three hundred or so other kiddos and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.

The major problem lies in the fact that someone needs to have the talk with these kids. The discussion of when and how to apply deodorant needed to be started by someone. They needed to hear about the proper way to wash themselves, when to brush their teeth, the benefits of mouthwash, how to avoid dandruff… but no one was starting these conversations because they are awkward and harsh sounding and difficult. There is always an excuse for why not to have these talks: “Our students come from poverty-stricken homes, perhaps they don’t have access to shampoo or hot water.” And also, “shouldn’t that be their parent’s responsibility?”

It true though. Parents should discuss this with their kids and some of them are too economically disadvantaged to have access to the normal beauty products we come to take for granted in our own showers.

After assembly they pile into their desks in my classroom, take out their pens and pencils and stare at me expectantly.

And so I begin…

“I love this job. Yay! It’s Friday and I get to hang out with all of you! Not many people get to wake up every, single day and dance their way into work because they are so excited to hang out with their favorite people. You guys are my favorite people! And that being said, it’s important for you to know that I love you very much….” (They giggle at that. Love is a strange concept to them.) “But…you. Smell. Awful.”

We spend the next few minutes talking about hygiene and cleanliness. They laugh when we discuss why we have bad breath and think of similes for what it smells like: “Bad breath smells like a rat that rolled around in the dumpster behind the school cafeteria.” We discuss the difference between shampoo and conditioner and why we don’t use bar soap to wash our hair. We talk about deodorant and why it is important not to just spray ourselves with body spray or cologne.

They think I’m funny. I think they’re smelly.

The truth of the matter is that having this discussion in the middle of English class is not a waste of class time. They may giggle their way through the “why-we-sweat” discussion but they appreciate knowing. Little girls come up to me after school and ask if I could help them acquire some shampoo. They come to school with new-found confidence and clean hair. Being in junior high is a daunting enough task, but being the awkward, smelly kid in junior high is infinitely worse.

There’s an air of respect in my room that next week, when I tell them they smell like roses and they laugh. I love those kids.

Someone mysteriously left an air freshener on my desk the following Monday. They are funny. They are significantly less stinky. Today at least, they wear deodorant.



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