The end of the “Pinnie” as we know it?

26 11 2010

As a new Teacher-On-Call, I’ve become used to waiting by the phone each weekday morning ready for the far-too-chipper voice of our dispatch lady to inform me of my daily destiny. It’s really been quite enjoyable, since I’ve had a chance to visit several schools and collect ideas for the time when I finally get a classroom of my own. The novelty of being a Traveling Wilbury certainly hasn’t worn off yet (anyone else remember that 80’s reference?).

For some reason, I’ve done a lot of P.E. prep for Elementary teachers and this past week I came across an issue I haven’t faced before: a student’s refusal to wear pinnies because of parent’s wishes.

In this particular Grade 2 class, I had adapted a lesson that I’d heard of done by a seasoned PE teacher and I wanted to introduce the whole idea of wearing pinnies to the group. After a show of hands, I saw that many hadn’t worn a pinnie before and so I decided to make the first time experience a positive and memorable one. Keeping in mind the thought processes of a primary student, trying to put on these colourful garments can be a traumatic ordeal for the first time if proper instructions aren’t given.

I had 4 bins of pinnies to work with: Red, Green, Yellow and Blue. I placed them in the centre of the gym and the students sat around the circle at halfcourt. I announced that today we were about to become astronauts and that every space traveler needed a special space suit before traveling “to infinity and beyond!”. I held up a pinnie, told the the class that it had special breathable qualities and that each one had a tag at the back (like a T-shirt) to help with identifying which hole to place your head into. One by one, each space explorer came up and selected their suit, put it on and sat in the Loading Bay ready for take-off.

I explained that the gym was a now a galaxy and that they were free to try out their new spacesuits, and to explore as much as they could. They were instructed to watch out for asteroids, stars, planets and other Space Junk (since we didn’t want to damage the suits they were wearing). The group really got into this imagination game and it was so rewarding to see the excitement in their eyes. The Red astronauts explored the red lines, the Yellow astronauts had to keep to the yellow lines and so on. When the whistle blew and they came back to the Space Station, I even gave them a lesson on how to fold their pinnies so that other astronauts could enjoy them in the future. I stifled my giggles when one by one, each student gently placed their folded pinnie into the Space Bin and sat down. My mother would have been so proud to see me working in the concepts of teaching kids how to fold laundry!

Even though I felt that the lesson was interesting and engaging and one that I will definitely do again, it was the hand that shot up near the beginning that I was not prepared for. “My mom says that I’m not allowed to wear those things.” Two other hands shot up as well “My dad says that bugs live on those shirts and that we’re not supposed to touch them“. I didn’t know what to say. Thinking on my feet, somehow I tactfully acknowledged the authority of the parents and I’d never suggest that everyone HAD to wear them, but as I thought more about this, I was stumped. Is this really the direction that we’re headed?

I’m afraid we’ve created a culture that is overly sensitive to germs and obsessed with safety. Physical safety is something that all teachers stress (especially PE teachers) and I’m glad that we promote making good choices when it comes to anticipating accidents and things that could harm children. But where is the line drawn? I suppose pinnies could potentially carry icky bugs if they aren’t washed regularly. I get that. But telling your kids that they are never to wear them? C’mon.

Are we not to lend our classmate a pencil because it might come back with a virus? Should we not promote team sports for fear of that volleyballs and basketballs interact with many hands and that surely they aren’t sanitary enough for our own kids? Please. Surely we realize that germs are part of the school experience and that like it or not, we educate students in giant petri dishes all the time. Besides, I don’t think we want to revert back to organizing teams into Shirts & Skins – the P.E. practice that I grew up with.

Hand sanitizer is a good thing. Washing hands several times a day (especially during flu season) is a fantastic idea. I can buy the logic of not sharing hats. But saying no to Pinnies? This teacher thinks that’s overkill.

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One response

20 12 2010
Carolyn Bartel

Brad I love all your TOC stories and had to chuckle at the pinnie story. I must say I’ve never been given that excuse about the bugs but I must admit I do get a “oh these are stinky” a few times from intermediate students.. That’s when I grab the bunch and bring them home for another washing. I’ve also reverted to terry cloth wrist bands instead of pinnies and they are soooo much easier for primary students to put on and take off. I’m just waiting for a volcano shoes story. I had to chuckle the other day when a new Grade 1 student looked at me with a bewildered expression as I called out “don’t step in the volcano”. =)

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