Every day, at least once a day (usually once every class), a student will ask me to borrow a pen or pencil, for something with which to write (although they tend not to be as grammatically astute--or polite). I have learned to take an extra breath, to walk away as I inhale deeply, so that my head doesn't spin as I shout how can you come to school without a pen or pencil?!?! These kids, high school kids--who might be asking me to write college recommendations somewhere down the line, who drive cars nicer than mine, carry purses more expensive than mine, use cell phones higher tech than mine--come to class without writing implements. I can't wrap my mind around it. I just don't understand. And it's more than being the equivalent of showing up at the bank to do your banking without bringing your paycheck that perplexes me.
One of the best days of summer for me when I was growing up came toward the end of the summer, when my sisters and I went school supply shopping. We'd get binders and pocket folders and filler paper and pens and pencils and colored pencils and small notepads spiral bound at the top in which to write our assignments and anything else we might need, anything else that might be on sale and on display at Bradlee's or Caldor. I can't imagine if there had been white-out pens or sticky notes then, and as many color coordinating items and doo-dads as there are now. I probably would have traded a pair of allotted Levi cords or Earth shoes to get more school supplies instead.
I sometimes I wonder if I was destined to become a school teacher, given my love of school supplies. All those things we didn't have then, but have now, are somewhere in my classroom or my purse. I color coordinate everything and am often the brunt of a jibe when I am spotted pulling a red sticky tab out of a selection of tabs in a planner insert and placing it on a sheet of paper that will ultimately end up in a red folder. Each of my classes full of kids who come to school without writing implements has its own color--usually primary. Purple is my general work color. I correct in purple (and only in purple) and use purple folders for attendance sheets and lesson plans, for my to-do folders (photocopy, file, revise, etc). I even have a lavender Filofax, which I coveted in Europe and eventually ordered when I got back home because I couldn't get it out of my mind. Indeed, I believe the writing was on the wall, or in one of the many notebooks I have filled and saved in my lifetime, that after exploring other careers, I would end up in a classroom.
The other day, when I was cleaning out my top desk drawer, among Trident gum wrappers and stale Breathsavers (no one wants to be the teacher with dragon breath), I came across a red pencil-tip eraser. I haven't used one of those in years (having gone through a phase when I used mechanical pencils with extra long erasers in twist-up chambers). I was so excited I put it on a number 2 Dixon Ticonderoga that wasn't in need of it, as I silently promised not to lend it to any students, who would neither appreciate it nor make a similar commitment to hold on to it for dear life.