“You need to brush your teeth Mrs. Jones. They’re all yellow!”
My mouth dropped open and I stared at Naomi, astonished at her rudeness. Then I remembered that my teeth had just been insulted, and I pulled my lips back together. My dentist had bawled me out at my last visit for brushing too hard. I also knew the school nurse had just sent Naomi’s parents a notice letting them know that she had several cavities that needed filling. Teeth were heavy on her mind.
Kids have a way of shaking your confidence. You’re three or four times their age, and compared to them you know everything. They know nothing. But still they comment without apology on what they see, hear, or think, leaving you feeling like an idiot.
My day of scrutiny wasn’t over. During 7th period I got to hear from Naomi again.
“Why do you have so much skin on your arms?”
I’m wearing short sleeve tops with sweaters these days. My classroom is on the west side of the building, and in the afternoon when it gets hot, the sweater comes off.
“I guess because I’m fat,” I smiled.
“No, you’re not,” Naomi countered. “But your arms have too much skin.”
I stared back at Naomi. Are you just trying to get out of work?
“If you don’t finish your math this period, you’ll be taking it home for homework,” I reminded her. I spent ten more minute going over how to recognize “some, some more, and how many all together” word problems. As I talked, Naomi studied my face, her head tilted to one side.
“Do you have any questions,” I asked.
“You should go brush your hair,” she said. “It’s all messed up.”
This was getting ridiculous. Naomi sat looking at me with her brown, course hair flying all over the place. She’d made an attempt to pull it back with some clips, but they had given out before noon.
“Naomi, you really need to get working on your math.”
Naomi studied me a few seconds longer.
What now? My clothes?
Finally she bent her head down and started working. I pulled my sweater back on, nonchalantly got up from the table and strolled across the room to check on another student working at the computer. When no one was looking, I opened the supply closet and looked at my hair in the mirror on the inside of the door.
I studied my reflection. My hair looked fine. Hey, my hair looked great. But maybe I’ll ask the dentist about whitening my teeth at the next checkup.