Thursday, June 25, 2015

Gifts from the Gifted.

For the first ten, or so, years that I taught, I was responsible for transporting students in my personal vehicle to off campus seminars.  Quite frankly, this was a nice way to get some extra cash, as I was reimbursed the IRS mileage rate.  It also meant that kids were in my minivan, with access to seatback pockets, and storage compartments.  It was easy to determine which seminars were actually favorable, based upon the crap  assortment of mementos and paperwork left in my car.

Given how much time I spent in my vehicle during those early years -- as I was also taxi-ing my own three children to their various activities -- it became a place where various chachkees settled.  First, there was the giraffe that I made for myself the first time I went to Build A Bear.  Stanley also sported reading glasses, and straddled the bench seat in the mini-van, causing me to smile every time I looked in the rear view mirror.  Most of my students knew Stanley by name, and some added capes -- and in one case an entire fingerless glove, to his wardrobe.

And then there was the Yodeling Pickle.  It was a gift -- how would I even KNOW how to find such an item -- and served as a fine conversation starter, dwelling in the back seat pocket, awaiting discovery.  I still have it, even though the battery has long since died.

I keep all sorts of odd items in both my car and my classroom, attempting to connect with students or start conversations.  The ORB OF CONFUSION, so labelled by my students, is actually a liquid filled bouncing ball that flashes lights when bounced.  I'm pretty sure Alex Pierce actually tattooed the name in Sharpie.

Two years ago, it was Albert Einstein magnets -- sort of paper doll style.  He came with a variety of clothing, and was dressed by students during homeroom, or in the final seconds of class.  He proved to be quite the clothes horse, and by the end of the year he had two Barbie babes who accompanied him across the whiteboard, thanks to a closet clean out at Maddie Bowers' house.

For years, the magnetic poetry strips on the front of my desk entertained individuals and pairs of students, and during the two years I taught "on a cart," I was the one with the battery-operated Christmas lights adorning my vehicle.  (The Impending Arrival of the Unicorn was the big deal at the junior high this year..., and the Ask the Unicorn button has been a favorite so long that I will mourn the loss of those batteries very soon, I fear.)

There are tons of "fiddlers" out there for offices.  There are zen sand gardens, and hourglasses with gel beads dripping through gears.  There are the ever-popular swinging "clicking" metallic galls that give rise to perpetual motion.  There are gadgets and gizmos, and bobble heads and Big Bang Theory figurines -- all of which generate connections with students. 

Besides, all these things make me smile when I think about them -- mostly because I recall a connection, a twinkle in an eye, or a giggle shared with a student - or two.  Sure, they're chachkees, but I prefer to call them memory makers.  And you'd better believe I'm shopping this summer for something new and different.

Because we all need reasons to smile!