Has the great education reform machine has fallen asleep, ignoring perhaps the greatest impediment to learning (one that is all-too-often, unfortunately, right in front of us)?
Many of our most vulnerable students must endure volatile home lives and perilous streets to get to school and sit in overcrowded classrooms. We tell these children to rise above all those obstacles and then we tell them to sit in the first row and pay attention.
But what if sitting so close means burning eyes from a teacher's fuming words?
We tell these children to speak up and ask questions -- but what if a teacher's answers contain a dizzying dose of sulfur?
You want higher standards for teachers -- how about starting with our breath?
Start with mine. I don't have time for breakfast in the morning. I'm up late marking papers, up early to beat the traffic. Sometimes, on that drive, I can feel the cool mint of my toothpaste losing the battle.
If I'm working the room during group discussions, the students better hope I remember to talk into their ears and not at their noses. They better hope my breath doesn't inadvertently waft toward them.
Don't make me mad or I will get up in your face -- and make your eyes water.
That's right -- classroom management is the raw onion in my homemade sandwich. I'll be burping it up all afternoon to remind everyone not to get out of line.
But is that fair?
How many innocent students get caught up in the pungent crossfire?
Isn't it time for me and every other halitosis-stricken teacher to do something about it? Shouldn't schools ensure that all students have fresh air to feed their brains while they try to expand their minds?
Don't we need to face this issue head on?
Well, maybe not quite head on. Better to duck a little to the side.
Isn't it time to reorganize those supply cabinets in the main office? Replace a few of those bubble sheets and #2 pencils with Tic Tacs (or Altoids, Certs or Breath Assure)*? You know the hand sanitizer bottle on the counter? The one the nurse or the administrative assistant sets down so we don't all spread germs around? Shouldn't there be a giant mouthwash dispenser and a supply of paper cups next to it?
If we won't voluntarily suppress our toxic breath then perhaps it is time for breathalyzers in every school -- and maybe some random searches of students because the noxious assault goes both ways, doesn't it?
Who knows how severe is this educational obstruction? Who knows how many learning opportunities are suffocated in a rancid cloud?
This needs to be studied.
Funds need to be allocated.
Corporate sponsors need to be mobilized.
Are you listening Proctor & Gamble? Are you listening Gates Foundation?
*or some other remedy, commercial or otherwise (I have no financial interest in the mint or mouthwash industry, other than the hundreds I contribute to these companies, partly in vain)