Saturday, September 1, 2012

Target, K-Mart, Walmart, CLASSMART

From the time I was five-years-old when I accompanied my mother on my very first school supply shopping trip, I have been mesmerized by overflowing shelves of notebooks, pencils, pens and crayons. Those of us of a certain age can remember the dusty, musty nose-tickling aroma of those flip-top, pulp paper notebooks with the blue lines, especially those with the dotted line sandwiched by the solid lines. Nirvana! And what could be better than a new box of sharp crayons?

Decades later, my heart still leaps in late July when the first wave of store circulars welcoming the start of school appear in the Sunday supplements section of the newspaper. But now, from my side of the retirement desk, I wistfully push my cart around those alluring stacks of spiral notebooks and black pens. When I was still in the classroom, only I could use colored pens. I leaned towards purple or green, depending on my mood, for those few adolescents who couldn’t seem to understand that they must have something to write on and something to write with when they came to class. No longer do I search for supplies that would keep me healthy and sane, except for a much abbreviated bag of goodies for my home office, but oh, what lifesavers they were in the classroom!

Not one college professor warned me that as autumn leaves started to fall, or when winter chose to aid and abet cold and flu viruses, I would be surrounded by  an avalanche of sneezing, snurfing, coughing students seeking comfort from their stuffed up nasal passages and scratchy throats in the soothing presence of  Mrs. Casserly, AKA: Mama Cass. Oh, those professors armed me with lesson planning and teaching techniques that served me admirably throughout my 30+ years in the classroom, but they failed to mention the saving graces of Kleenex, Lysol, a coffee/tea maker and a radio/CD player. And chocolate.
Here is my CLASSMART Lifesaver List:
1.      An extra-large bottle of hand cleanser.
2.      Kleenex: boxes and boxes of Kleenex. Enough said.
(If you check out my About Me page on my website:, you will see these two items front and center on my desk in my old haunt, Room 216).
3.      Lysol spray: for those students who sneezed or coughed on their homework or tests and then tried to hand the tainted papers to me. Talk about Germ Warfare! When they did, I smiled, handed them the can and urged them to go into the hall and de-germ those weapons of mass congestion.
4.      A large bottle of Tylenol: for those mornings when I forlornly realized that the cut-glass scratchiness in the back of my nose was the result of free-range germs.
5.      A four-cup Mr. Coffee maker and a file cabinet filled with coffee-flavored coffee (okay, so I threw in a mocha java) and Constant Comment and Earl Gray tea bags.
6.      My aging, but still working Boom Box, complete with a radio, CD player and tape deck.  Students had to be untethered from their phones, IPods, etc during school hours but music could set the mood for a lesson. A little Chopin, on low, worked well during in-class writing sessions. The songs, “Stars” and “Dog Eat Dog”, from Le Miserables always jump started lively discussions during our study of The Stranger. And when that first snowflake fell, we checked the All Weather channel periodically.
7.      Sturdy Paper cups (Hydration rules!) and plates. A strategically planned cultural event (“Parties are frowned upon in this establishment.” I borrowed this clip from one of my favorite commercials) could charge up sluggish gray matter and boost camaraderie.
8.      Multi-roll package of Paper Towels. An absolute necessity for cleaning up everything from Animal Cracker crumbs to water spills to zabaglione (a student took ethnic food over the top during a Romeo and Juliet cultural event).
9.      Stapler, scotch tape, paper clips, sharp scissors and glue sticks. Those anchored my private stash, which students knew better than to raid. Any student who forgot doomed his or her peers to Lecture #572: Violation of Personal Space, which wasn’t pretty.
10.   Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Just like burgers need fries and eggs need bacon (or sausage), grading that stack of essays called for the fruit of the cocoa bean…in any form.

This CLASSMART list saved my sanity and my sick days over and over again. And although I, like Elvis, have left the building, I thought it timely to share it with colleagues who still face close encounters with hormonal types. I hope it helps you all to stay healthy during this crazy summer/fall/winter/spring weather.

Happy Teaching,

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