I was going to devote this article to the distressing, but indisputable fact that I am no longer a Teacher. Rather, I am a Tester. Because in the mere 16 weeks we have been in school this academic year, I have spent 98.9% of my time either testing my students for something or preparing them to take a test for something. Not that I want to, of course. Yes, my dreams and aspirations of a student-centered curriculum wane daily in this age of high stakes assessments. But that’s going to have to be fodder for another column.
Because yesterday, after I had taken the 54th adorable Japanese eraser from a student and plopped it on my desk, I realized I had a higher calling. I’m giving it a thesis-worthy title: The Cultural Significance of the Generational Gadgets Educators Confiscate From Students.
Also Known as “Hand It Over”
For those of you who are in the trenches as I write this, you surely know what I’m talking about when I say that I loathe the Japanese eraser. And I’m not talking about cute little pandas or pigs, I’m talking about the little rubber nightmares that contain multiple parts–the cars, the food, the sushi sets. Because let’s be honest here, no kid in my class is actually using these treasures to erase anything. What they are doing–and God bless the folks who run the school store right in my building for selling these things–is taking them apart and fiddling with them when they are supposed to be doing math or writing or reading…or taking a test.
At this point I am obliged to calmly walk over, hand outstretched, secure the little parts and deposit them on my desk for the duration of the day. Yesterday the final straw was a car that had no less than 15 small parts, including wheels that kept rolling off the offending student’s desk, which in turn caused the other 18 children in my 3rd grade class to exclaim, “YOUR ERASER JUST FELL ON THE FLOOR…” at 15 second intervals throughout my very serious and dramatic reading of The Tale of Despereaux.
Of course, none of this is new. Back in the 70’s teachers were taking away mood rings, Pop Rocks, packs of Bubble Yum, yo-yos, and the small plastic combs every kid had slid in the back pocket of their Levis jeans (I know this, not because I was a teacher then, but because I was one of those kids with 5 pieces of strawberry Bubblicious crammed in my mouth looking like a baseball player chewing on a chaw of tobacco).
In the 80’s, when I did begin to teach, our desks contained storehouses of Masters of the Universe and My Little Pony figures, and those annoying black rubber Madonna bracelets. By the 90’s Slap bracelets were all the rage. There was nothing like trying to teach multiplication to a room full of eight year olds with the constant background beat of 27 crackling, snapping, popping sounds drowning out anything you were trying to say. Snap bracelets were the first items I actually banned from my classroom entirely. Then came Tamogotchis, those tiny electronic “creatures” that students had to keep alive by constantly feeding and watering them. Not a fan of those either.
In the 2000’s Silly Bandz invaded my 1st grade classroom. Hundreds and thousands of them. Literally. The best thing about the Silly Bandz, if you were 6, of course, was that they could be used as projectiles, so that in the middle of a reading lesson, let’s say, one would come hurtling across the room and hit me in the forehead. Then, kids would wrap them so tightly around their wrists that they’d risk losing all circulation in their hands…and who can do Writer’s Workshop with no feeling in his or her extremities I ask?
And that brings us full circle to the present day and those pesky Japanese erasers. Things will never change, I guess. Which is why I can imagine one day, twenty years from now, that one of my former eraser-loving students will be striding purposefully over to a child in his or her class, reaching out a hand, and confiscating the latest fad of 2032. I can only imagine what it might be.
Teachers, what gadgets do you remember “borrowing” from students over the years?
About the Author
Wendy Cushing has been teaching for 28 years in grades Pre-K-3. She currently teaches 3rd grade in Monroe, Connecticut. In addition to teaching, Wendy enjoys pinning teaching ideas she will never use, party planning, freelance writing, and hanging out with her over 300 lbs. worth of dogs. She is mom to two wonderful daughters, one living in NYC, and the other about to enter 7th grade.