Most elementary schools use clever methods to discourage student irresponsibility. The Oops! Slip is one I’m most familiar with.

Students get Oops! Slips for not arriving to class prepared. If they are out of their seats, not listening, or if they don’t have paper and pencils ready, “Oops!” goes the teacher and out go the slips.

Oops, no gym shoes. Oops, a missing bus tag. Oops, parents forgot to sign homework papers.

Hmmmmm. Maybe the Mom and Dad should get the Oops! Slip for that one.

On a recent substitute-teaching adventure—they are adventures—I watched a boy unpack his backpack for the morning. He then shoved his jacket into his locker and walked toward me.

“I forgot my folder at home, so I don’t have my homework for today,” he said.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “I guess that means you get an Oops! Slip.”

“Yeah.” He said it like the experienced fourth grader he was. Been there. Done that. Know what it’s like.

I felt for the little guy. I, too, had been there—just not at school.

As a student, I was the epitome of organized in turning in homework. Prepared for class? Always. Tardy? Never.

The thought of getting singled out for punishment was all the motivation I needed.

I’m fortunate that Oops! Slips aren’t handed out to adults. The thought of it makes my stomach feel green—not the environmentally friendly kind of green, but nauseating yellow green.

If I counted back from the time I turned 20 till now, I’d have probably topped the Guinness World Record for the highest number of adult Oops! slips.

Oops, I misplaced my car keys. Oops, I forgot to bring an umbrella.

Oops, I don’t have any quarters for the parking meter. Oops, I forgot to return my library books.

Oops, I locked the baby in the car. Yes, I’m ashamed to say I did—twice.

I locked my infant son in the car. Things like that happen when a young mom is trying to keep track of three kids under four years old.

It matters not. Oops! slip I’d have had, maybe detention, too.

Trips to the grocery store alone would have earned more than a few Oops! Slips for me.

Oops, I forgot milk or eggs or bread or the red wine vinegar. I never remember to pick up the red wine vinegar.

Oops, I forgot the grocery list. Or worse, after all of my items were scanned and bagged—oops, I left my wallet at home.

At school, the kids who collect more than three Oops! Slips in nine weeks miss out on the reward for that grading period.   No pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Major bummer.For older kids like me, it’s more about

For older kids like me, it’s more about an accumulation of penalties than the loss of rewards. Big kids like me suffer a consequence for every single oops.

Our penalties include wasted time, drenched clothes, parking tickets, overdue fees, and extra trips to the gas pumps.

I avoided having to bust out any out car windows. I’m forever indebted to the person who thought up the idea of spare keys. She or he must know me.

Either that or they’ve experienced a few oops of their own.

In a way, I count myself lucky. I’m reliable when it comes to big things: Making work deadlines, paying bills on time, organizing events and, with the exception of locking my son in the car, my children were always in good hands.

But, oops, there is room for improvement on the little things—the little things that drive me crazy.


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