Chalk - The Jose Vilson

Chalk

by Jose Vilson on December 11, 2008

in Jose

Color Chalk

Color Chalk

Had my observation today at school. As usual, because I’m really hard on myself, I’ll probably give myself a B-, or maybe even a C+. I’m not pleased with myself. And frankly, I could lay out a bunch of excuses for myself, but that’s just not how I roll. It just hasn’t been that week for me.

On Wednesday, for instance, what became a simple task turned into an excursion. Before my alumni meeting, I went to find some goddamn color chalk. Granted, color chalk seems to be one of those rare things that only I should have gone to a teachery store from, but since they advertise to teachers so much, I thought “Why the hell not?” I went to Staples, thinking it might be easy since that’s their big thing. I smacked like 10 “Easy” buttons before the managers even looked in my direction. And the more I searched, the less I found. Not only did they not have color chalk, but they had NO chalk whatsoever! Wow. That wasn’t easy.

Then, I went to Office Depot, Staples’ less social older stepsister. At first, I thought I might find it there because they had color everything: color markers, water paints, color pencils, color pens, color finger paint, colors even Roy G. Biv might be inspired by. But when it came to chalk, I saw nothing. And I mean nothing. I let go of my more male stereotypes and asked for directions. The guy on the first floor says, “Oh, why don’t you go downstairs to teacher’s supplies?” And lo and behold … I found a section called Teacher’s Supplies with no CHALK! Again, at this point, I’m humbled, so I went to a clerk at the downstairs level and asked where the chalk was. “Oh, it’s upstairs, I think.” Oh really? You mean the same UPSTAIRS I JUST CAME FROM!?

At this point, I must have looked like a raving maniac, because I was definitely whispering to myself “wheresdagotdamnchalkiwantsomechalkimeanwhatdahell?” And I calmed my ass down over some hot chocolate and some serious meeting time with my compatriots. Today, after what I’d consider a bad observation in many ways, letting the 4-5 kids in my class know about their inappropriate behavior, and contemplating teacher leadership for some grant we’re working on, I decided I’d satisfy the urge anyways.

I bought the chalk.

At the local supply shop.

After alllllllll that searching.

Needless to say, I bought the three packs left.

And I’m sitting here, no beer in my hands and chillin’ in the living room, contemplating whether I’m a bit too hard on myself. The positives far outweigh the negatives in any given matrix. And despite some of my finer issues I need to work on, I’ve been teaching ostensibly.

Can’t count my blessings on one hand, more than a handful
And God ain’t send nothin’ my way I couldn’t handle …

- Joe Budden, “If I Should Die Tomorrow”

Jose, who needs a nice, cold glass of water and some good reading …

p.s. – Thanks to everyone who kept things in perspective for me.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

The Jaded NYer December 11, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Fret not; I’m sure you are being hard on yourself. We are always our own worst critics.

And please- Staples is famous for having everything in the world except the one thing you are looking for. You’re not crazy, that store is just WACK!

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Nancy Flanagan December 12, 2008 at 11:37 am

My recommendation: Have kids. No, wait–keep reading. Once you have kids, you make it your business to know what parents know. Like where to find colored chalk: Target, in the kids’ toys section in summer (big, fat sidewalk chalk–a very fun tool for the classroom) and in the kids’ school supplies in the winter. You also start knowing about the best music, the best books, the best classr00m-ready toys. My middle school kids absolutely wore out a sit-n-spin, and that little touch of nausea it induced served as “classroom management.”

No observation ever goes well. Ever. And really–what is most important in any observation is the conversation that happens afterward. What matters is not how well you taught, or how well the students behaved. What matters is your ability to analyze your own teaching, and be thoughtful about how you would improve the lesson you just taught, and what to do next.

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Ariel Sacks December 13, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Jose, you are not alone. It’s been that kind of a week for just about every teacher I know. Sorry you had to have your observation this week. Kids are antsy, teachers are burnt to a crisp, classrooms feeling greasy with winter germs= time for a break. I’m usually not a counter, but this week pushed me there. 7 more days!

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The Bus Driver December 13, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Someone beat me to it with the sidewalk chalk in the kids toys section. I remember several of my teachers who used sidewalk chalk instead of the tiny standard size pieces of regular colored chalk. Besides, sidewalk/kids chalk seemed to work better than the other stuff.

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Jose December 15, 2008 at 11:00 am

I never thought about the kids’ section of anything. That’s good. I actually have my local spot now, though, so it’s fine if I don’t get the color chalk from the major places. Thanks for the advice people.

More than anything, though, I gotta thank Ariel for getting to the crux of the post: many of us really are burnt out, and the chalk in and of itself was symbolic of my struggle to feel like I’m getting anything right even when I’m striving for some ill-wrought excellence.

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Alice Williams December 16, 2008 at 8:41 am

Jose,
You’re still striving, and that’s the most important part. My thanks and awe for all the teachers out there like you – on December 16 – who are still working to make each day count for your students.

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