Guest Post: An Immigrant's Story

By Alla Chrome

I started work at school as a physics teacher. It was impossible to have a full-time job as a fresh college graduate at that time. Full-time teachers had 18 hours per week and I had 10-12 hours. Two days a week I worked as a teacher at an extended day program for elementary school, which completed my hours for a full-time position. I wasn’t happy initially with my work at the elementary school, but it actually had unexpected benefits.

Teachers working at those cabinets established the rules and complied strictly with them. The laboratory had another door that lead to the recreation hall and was across the nurse's cabinet and in very close proximity, about two meters. The majority of visitors of the nurse cabinets were elementary school students. Some of them knew me from working with them at the extended program. It didn't take a long time when the nurse and I became good friends. Sometimes she came to me to ask a favor and sometimes I did the same. When her door was closed, students or teachers knocked at my door to ask to transfer some information or papers to her . The nurse was middle-aged, kind, a little naïve, single and without kids, cute but not a really pretty looking woman. Even though I was just 22 years old, I had a toddler at home, and she saw in me a person who knows how to deal with kids. Sometimes she came to me to express her frustration to deal with younger students but overall there weren't any problems or big accidents. 

One day, I was a teenage, single mom in Moscow, and the next, in a physics classroom and teaching a class when the nurse ran into my laboratory overwhelmed and panic-stricken. She was signaling to me in pantomime that she needed me;  something terrible was happening in her cabinet. I gave the class some work to do and stepped into the laboratory. The nurse was almost gagging about some first grade student who was sledding with other kids on the floor of the gym on their bottoms. The floor at the gym, as everywhere at school, happened to be made of pine tree wood which had some chips. As a result, the chip cleaved from the floor and had entered into that child’s derriere. The child was lying on the medical bench, and the nurse was running around the child, making him even more afraid. Oh, he was sobbing, and was ready to start crying. But he still had hope that big and powerful adults would rescue him.  I was staring at the kid’s bottom where the top of a huge splinter was visible, but it was the very sort that had to be pulled out with some medical forceps. But it looked like the nurse didn’t have such a tool. 

At the height of the calamity, I started to hear the noise from my classroom where I had left unsupervised about 30 middle school students. Minutes were running as seconds and nothing of great genius had come to my mind. The nurse and I came to close proximity of the kid, bent over him, trying to figure out a solution. The option was to call an emergency car. We knew that it would take hours before they would come. And for those hours the child would be scared, humiliated, and overwhelmed. And on the other hand it didn’t seem like such a big deal to pull the object out. I had  pulled splinters out by hand and teeth.  However, it had never been this big and located in such an unusual place. Time was running out and I was feeling the pressure to do something

I was in charge.

The nurse was not capable to handle that emergency situation. I had no time. I had no medical equipment.  I had no choice. The solution was simple. The next moment, I bent over the kid's bottom, hooked the splinter by my teeth, and pulled it out. I spit out the splinter into my palm and looked at him to see if he were okay. The kid stood up and pulled his pants up. He seemed to be okay. The nurse was shocked by my action and quick performance. Nothing more was I able to do. My mission was completed. The noise from the class was increasing dramatically, I was afraid that it would attract attention of the principal who was located on the same floor on the opposite side. I said good day to everybody, turned around and left the medical office. I was going to the class and felt it would be a problem to calm my students down since they tasted the freedom and carnivals taste blood, but that is a different story.