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January 16, 2012

It’s Mine Now

Written By: Wendy Cushing
X It's Mine - The Things Teachers Confiscate

It's Mine - The Things Teachers Confiscate

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.


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  • cindy
    January 16, 2012

    Thanks for the heads up on the upcoming fad. I think the worse one for me were scented pencils. One day a few of my kids complained of headaches and after a quick investigations we realized the scented pencils were the reason.

  • Ann
    January 16, 2012

    I don’t actually take anything away from my kids anymore. Early in the year they learned that if I take it away it goes to toy jail, and it doesn’t come back for a week. Now all I have to do is ask them to put it away in their desk. We have a few of the novelty erasers in my room. The kids ooh and ah over them for a few minutes, then we just don’t make a big deal out of them.

    I think I also have a high tolerance for fiddling and fidgeting, as long as they are listening, not disrupting others, and doing their work. Some kids just need to.

  • Lorena
    January 16, 2012

    Love this article! I have the same problem. I teach in Utah and don’t know why the school sell those puzzle erasers.I have one student that gives me one of those as a present every week. He may think Ilike it, but I don’t at all!

  • Christy
    January 16, 2012

    Too funny! And having been at this teaching gig for a while, I can SO relate. Knock on wood, we don’t have the described erasers here in the Midwest yet, but now I fear their appearance! Can’t think of any consistent one thing at the moment, but something from the past that sticks out in my mind is Pokemon cards, and then recently Yu-Gi-O (?) cards!!!

  • Debbie Romig
    January 16, 2012

    Ah yes! The things I have taken away seems to vary yearly! I have snagged yoyo (in the 90’s thanks to a fellow teachers playing of “Yoyoman”), brushes ( the year everyone was stroking out their luxurious locks), Pogs, and hats( “but ms. Romig, I can’t have naked hair!) cars, belt buckles, troll dolls, rabbits feet, and countless erasers of varying type, including normal ones that were being drilled through with a pencil. This is definitely a challenge they don’t mention in teacher school!

    I now have rule that if I take something from you two times it goes into the “June box” or your parent has to pick it up! It has helped some. And at least I can talk to the parent about the problem if it continues. Otherwise, I put the object into a ziplock bag with the child’s name and give it back the last week of school. This works well with 5th grade and middle school.

  • Julie
    January 16, 2012

    stars for perfect attendance- students add a star to their necklace each month they have perfect attendance. the noise they make running the star up and down the chain is like nails on a chalkboard!!!

  • Carrie Blackmar
    January 16, 2012

    I’m not sure why the Japanese eraser fad has not hit my school (my daughters, however, have a pencil box-full of them from their school). What I do confiscate is Lego men and their tiny guns/light sabers, coins from lunch, and the odd piece of jewelry. Oh, and if my first graders have nothing in their pockets, then they are busy tying their shoelaces together or playing with velcro: two things difficult to confiscate! Oddly enough, I have students who require fidgets based on their 504 plans! Maybe they all need a stress ball to keep them still during a reading lesson!

  • Amy
    January 16, 2012

    I loved this article. Thanks for making me laugh so early in the morning. But what’s weird is that I haven’t seen these in my 3rd grade classroom yet. I’m from AZ. I’m sure they’re coming our way!

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