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 The strategies that teachers use in the classroom are valuable outside the classroom. You know this. It's time everyone had access to the things teachers know. Now you do. Welcome!

Thoughts from the Junk Drawer: Lesson #1 Permanent Markers

Permanent Marker Are you afraid when you hear of anything permanent? If you have a two year old you are. It is quite possible that you, haver of the two year old, will not find a permanent marker in your junk drawer.  Why? Because they have been moved to a secure location that cannot be disclosed or they have been banished from your home entirely.  You don’t have to skip this. Read on and fear not.

It’s Black Friday. You know it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and the stores somehow convince you to roll your well fed self out of bed at some ungodly hour and start your Christmas shopping. They are hoping to ride the wave of holiday gluttony by promising big sales.  More for less! Whatever your income bracket, this sounds good, especially to us moms, we have to make it stretch.

So, like I said, it’s Black Friday. I am up at an hour that I do not usually see (note: I am not a mom yet.) The appeal of shopping and getting a head start on the Christmas rush has ushered me into the world of bargain hunters. I see moms. Sure, I also see teenage techies on the hunt for the sure to sell out video game or latest gadget.  Men are looking to score that big ticket item that just barley dropped into their price range. Fashionistas are out and about hoping to glam up their wardrobe on the cheap.

There are so many people out hoping to get a deal either for themselves or someone on their list.  But I mostly notice the moms. I know that they are moms because they have shown up with a list, a pen, a cup of coffee, and they may or may not be wearing miss matched socks and an unwashed pony tail. They are on a mission and they don’t have time to waste. They are worn from feeding everyone the day before but they push on for their families and hopefully a little something for themselves.

I am probably most interested in moms at that time because I know that I am about to join their ranks. My husband and I just found out that we are pregnant.  It’s such an exciting time for me. We aren’t sharing this little announcement with anyone just yet, but my tiny secret is already causing me to see the world in a new way.  Somewhere in all the hustle and bustle a tear comes to my eye when I think of how much time, energy, and planning these ladies do just being a mom. The tear may be sentimental or it may be fear. Quite possibly a little fear since I just felt a slight eye twitch. So it is probably both admiration and fear that I have a lot to live up to.

The next day my mom calls me. She had been working in the ‘pit.’ The place that the public can hall all the junk they have collected to and, for a fee, dump.  She sees a man with a single item on the back of his truck. He looks a little down. My mom sees that he is pushing a very large new looking TV box towards the large pile of junk waiting to be loaded on to the dump trucks. She asks him why he is throwing what looks to be a new TV away. He is happy to share his story, if only to have someone commiserate with him one last time.

Rather than tell his story he decides to show her, and what she is about to see explains it all. He opens the box and slides out a brand new, never been watched, large, flat screen TV.  Sometime during the process of getting the TV up and running, his two year old daughter obtained a permanent marker. Sometime after obtaining the marker, Daddy’s back was turned for just enough time. Can you guess how this story ends? Sure you can. You may have a similar story which is why anything ‘permanent’ has been banned in your home.

This father got a great Black Friday deal on a prized TV, that he would never watch, unless he wanted to watch it through the scribbles of a very thorough two year old.  Of course, my mom asked if he tried to clean it.  Of course, he had. He showed her the spots where he got some of the ink to smudge around, but the screen was forever changed. No matter how new and state of the art, no matter the flatness or inches, this TV has been changed for always. No going back. His TV is likely not the first of many parenthood sacrifices he will have to make in his life.

Let’s go to another scene now.

I am standing at the front of my very first classroom. I have just been hired to teach 1st grade in the same classroom where I was once a student. It is Dr. Carper’s classroom. He was my teacher and the principal at the time. The classroom used to be a Junior High classroom. Dr. Carper told me that I would be a great teacher one day and gave me a tutoring position at the school when I was in the seventh grade. I truly admired him and am so grateful for the encouraging words he spoke into my life. I know that I went on to achieve my dream of teaching in part because he believed I could.

It is still dark out. My students haven’t arrived yet and there isn’t anything left to busy myself with in preparing for them to come. I have been organizing and reorganizing my classroom for weeks.  It was a labor of love. As I think back on this day, I can still feel the excitement and energy. That is not why I remember this morning, however. When you have taught many days it is really hard to remember one day from the next. They all start blending and swirling together and you really just remember moments, good and bad. I remember nothing else from this day. I just remember the morning before the students arrived. Here’s why.

As I mentioned, there was nothing more for me to do. I was just waiting for my students to arrive. I looked around my classroom and everything was in its’ place. I turned around to see the crisp clean whiteboard ready for use. I decided to write a welcome message to my students and parents.

I wrote a lovely message welcoming them to the classroom and the new school year, signing it with love, Mrs. Santiago. Touching. I stepped back to look at it and noticed that it drooped ever so slightly to the right. Droopy writing may be acceptable any other day, but not the first day of a brand new school year with me, a brand new teacher. I was not pressed for time so I could just erase it and began again. I could, except when I rubbed the eraser over the ink it only smudged it slightly. I rubbed a little harder, lest my eyes deceived me.

That’s right folks, I like a two year old, just marked up the board in my classroom with permanent marker. My heart stopped then fluttered back to life to take a second look and stopped again.  When my heart decided to continue beating, though I pleaded with it not to, to which it pounded way up into my ears. I guess this is because loud thudding aids thinking, right? No, I couldn’t think or breathe. If my heart wouldn’t give out, perhaps my lungs would and I could collapse right here and not have to face the permanent marker on the board. To no avail, I apparently would live through this experience.

I could feel my face go flush and beads of sweat bubbling up on my forehead. This is in case anyone suspects that I am not feeling humiliated. My face wanted to sound the alarm.

I should be thinking of a plan like somehow getting the marker off of the board, or covering the spot with a poster until I can somehow fix this problem. Instead I am thinking of things like getting arrested for vandalism on my first day teaching and possible newspaper headlines to go along with it. “The New Face of Education, Defaces School Property.”

How would I face my boss and tell him that I would need a new whiteboard?  It used to seem like I had so much time before the students would arrive but now it feels like they will be here any minute.  I scan the classroom for any holes to crawl into.

Fortunately, my husband worked at the same school. I ran to his classroom. Add another school setting faux pau to my resume, running in the hall, wow. I can see the seasoned teachers pop their heads up as a blur clouds their windows. I now know what they are thinking, ‘The kids are already running in the halls, this is going to be a great year.’  I get to Ryan’s classroom to find that he is cool collected, and writing his welcome message on the whiteboard, appropriate pen type in hand. Cute.

I am a mess and he can tell right away. Not knowing the reason for my sweating, labored breathing, and red face, he takes a slight step back. I wonder if I have morphed into some troll like creature bent on a path of vandalism and rule breaking. He looks worried and asks what’s wrong. I explain the whole story. I expect that he will hang his head in shame.  He is married to the troll and must now share my ostracism.

He smiles and says that he has done that before and shares a quick and easy tip to fix it. My hero! This man has been my hero on so many occasions it is hard to keep track, but this is a particular favorite.  He walks, walks, me back to my classroom and shows me that by writing over the permanent marker with the whiteboard dry erase marker, the permanent marker comes off as well. He is the veteran teacher.  I am saved with only moments to spare.

Now knowing this trick, aren’t you wondering if the TV from earlier in the chapter could have somehow been saved? I know my husband is!

Moms did you know we are like permanent markers in our kids lives. We have this unique ability to write into their lives in a forever kind of way. That might seem scary. Now saying that, some of you may be ready to through the book down and not pick it back up, after all this is supposed to be an encouraging book, not a horror story. Please keep reading.

Each of us is so touched by the permanent traits of motherhood.  We will forever get to be a part of our children’s lives. We have loved them and taught them to love. We have shared midnight cuddles that have made them feel secure and safe. We have urged them on when tasks were difficult and praised their efforts when we know that they tried.  Our pride in them, we hope, turns into pride and respect in themselves.

We have touched and changed their lives in a permanent way.  In light of the two stories told earlier in the chapter you may be afraid of your own permanent and lasting effects. I know I am! How many times have I thought, ‘Am I messing my child up for life?!?’  While it may be good to have a healthy respect for the position that you have over your child there is no need to fear.

I know that I will make mistakes. Some will be worse than others. Some I won’t even realize that I am making. Be encouraged. Even some of the most permanent seeming mistakes can be lived and learned through. Some mistakes can be corrected even when it seems like there is no answer, just like when my husband came through for me and fixed what I thought was a forever ruined white board.

Don’t give up when the parenting doesn’t seem like your forte, but be willing to let go of imperfections like that dad at the dump had to let go of his brand new TV.  Parenthood is hard and self sacrificing but it is also so rewarding. There is permanence to this relationship. My son and I will forever be affecting each other’s lives. I have peace knowing that this isn’t a one shot deal. We get to keep trying and learning together, just like I didn’t get hauled off to prison on my first day teaching. I made a mistake but life went on.

I love you son. You have written on my heart in permanent marker that nothing can erase. I hope that I will write love all over your heart as well. Please forgive me when I make mistakes and loose my way. I will do the same for you.



Thoughts from the Junk Drawer: Lesson #2 Old Toothbrush

Thoughts from the Junk Drawer: Lesson #3 Egg Timer

Thoughts from the Junk Drawer: Lesson #2 Old Toothbrush

A Little More Minimal Series: Intro