I’ve been casual teaching for a few years now. When I first started casual teaching I also worked at a local after school care, as well as other after school cares when staff called in sick.
I was just starting to build my reputation among my local school communities. I usually accepted any job and was happy to please the executives with any extras whether it was in my job description or not. Sometimes I would start the teaching day in a classroom and then finish it at the After School Care.
Until one day I was asked to work a casual day at an after school care. I was filling in for a sick educator and I hadn’t worked there before. I happily accepted the afternoons work and was eager to meet some new students. When I got there I didn’t know this shift was going to be different to the others.
When I arrived I was introduced to the director Sonia and shown around the centre. I introduced myself to the students and started getting to know them.Not long into these conversations Sonia interrupted me and asked if I could do her a favour. She asked if I would be able to go and clean the student toilets as they hadn't been cleaned all day. Working in primary schools I didn’t usually have to clean the toilets but I agreed and pulled up my big girl pants, grabbed the bucket and mop and headed for the loos. Before I could leave the room Sonia grabbed my arm and pulled me closer to her. She whispered in my ear, “ I hope you don’t mind. But I made a big mess in there before and I didn’t get a chance to clean it.”
I shuddered and thought, oh no, what does that mean? She continued, “I menstruated all over the floor in the girls bathroom and I’d really appreciate if you could clean this up for me before any of the students go in there”.
My mouth dropped. I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t think asking anyone to clean up another woman’s menstruation was appropriate but I didn’t want to embarrass her or worse, refuse and have her ruin my reputation as a new teacher in the community. I felt I had no choice. I took a deep breath and walked towards the toilets. I stood at the end of the of the cubical, cringing at the foot of the door, opened the door and cleaned as fast as I had ever cleaned before. I had decided that I couldn't look directly at the red mess on the floor without dry reaching so I decided to clean with my eyes half closed so I couldn’t really take in the details of the red blur in front of me. I rigorously mopped over the red stain on the white tiles without taking a breath. Utterly disgusted in what Sonia had asked me to do and myself for following through with the request I vowed to myself that I would never return to this centre. How could one human make such a mess on the floor? Was she dancing around the room while trying to change her tampon? I couldn't ask myself these questions anymore, my stomach turned.
Now, I’ve cleaned toilets before and I have even cleaned faeces off unwell students. I have no issues helping students in need. I do however feel extremely uncomfortable cleaning a grown adult’s (a director of the centre no less) menstruation from the floor of a child’s bathroom when the adult is completely capable of cleaning up her own bloody mess. Sonia had been in the community as the director of her centre for a long time and she had a great reputation amongst the community. I felt as though I had no choice but to keep on her good side.
Do I just have extrememly bad luck or are these incidences common to teachers desperate for a good reputation and a job? or do you think I am being a bit of a sook and asking another woman to clean up someone else's menstration is fair go?
*Names in this story have been changed for confidentiality.