Once the Fourth-of-July sales are over, every shop clears a path for Back-to-School. It used to be that you had a limited choice of stores for school supplies but not anymore. I swear, I walked past a liquor store yesterday and saw a crayon display.
I dropped by our local office supply shop the other day. This store is my choice for back-to-school shopping each summer because it’s where I can purchase MY favorite tool---the desk-blotter month-by-month calendar that begins with August. Most of these blotters begin with January...I’ve heard tell that the year begins in January for some people. Not teachers.
As a veteran, I find that this item is the single most important tool for me. It keeps me organized, on track, and on top of all the little school dramas that I must respond to. It is where I record my lesson plans and every other important detail of the day/week/month for my classes.
Sometimes, a student will request make-up work, work-ahead work, something, and I’ll note it in the margin: Sarah G. 3rd 212. Or a parent will ask me to call and I’ll jot a reminder: 4595555 Sarah G. mom.
Other common notations: Fire Drill; Convo 1st; Couselor to SRP; Hair 2:45; get prizes. NO SCHOOL. Once in a while, my little notations are coded/short-handed to the point that I can’t remember what they are which, of course, is counter-productive, but usually I can get multiple jobs done using this desk top, hands-on tool.
The month begins all clean and neat. By the end of the month, the calendar is filled with any number of things, including the occasional coffee cup ring. I have developed a ritual where I tear off the old month and then gaze and reflect at the next one, all clean and neat, before I begin to scribble anew all over it.
I know from talking to friends that back to school shopping is a common instance of parent/child negotiation. Some parents take a hard line on frills, like movie tie-in binders or screen printed pencils. These are saved for rewards or special occasions. I had a friend who made his children earn those Neatbooks, the loose leaf binders where you can tear off the paper instead of ripping it through the metal rings.
I leave such decisions to individual parents but that was not my method during the 15 years when my own kids were in school. As a teacher, I gave them a lot of leeway to select what they wanted as I view good tools essential to quality work. “You want the Ninja Turtle Pens? Fine. You want those wireless (it meant something different) loose-leaf notebooks? (which cost 3 times what a stack of school paper would run) Absolutely.”
I also let them choose their favorite assortment of Crayolas. One always wanted the biggest with the sharpener in the back, even though that sharpener would get gunked up much sooner than we ran out of crayons. Neither ever wanted MY favorite assortment, the 48 colors in the balcony package. (I’m not sure, but I believe my own mother held the line on such a frill, as I don’t remember ever getting these and I still get a bit of a rush whenever I see that box in the display. Weren’t 8 colors enough? No, not really...I always NEEDED Burnt Sienna)
Anyway, I was in the supply store to get a few office things as the staff is winding down, cleaning up, closing files, and etc. After gathering the items on my list, I strolled past the desk-blotter-calendars with January 2010 on the first page and walked to a farther back place to see if my favorite was there. It was. There are some things right with the world, after all.
I didn’t buy one because this fall, I will continue my leave-of-absence from a job that I love.
Really, I do. But my focus right now is elsewhere and I’m not thinking to 2010. We’re learning to live day to day in our world.