A few weeks ago I wrote about my pencil sharpener.
The post went viral.
I have written about the importance of reading, the significance of the teaching profession, the incorporation of powerful teaching practices. And I will continue to write about those things. They are ingrained in my teaching heart. But I have now learned an important lesson: what we teachers really care about.
You know it’s true. I would bet that the majority of teachers are like me, with fond memories of school supply shopping as a child, with fond memories of shopping for school supplies with my own children (who, heartbreakingly, do not enjoy this as much as I do). When I enter a discount or office supply store in August, I find myself wandering the aisles even if I’m not ready to make my purchases for the year. I want to buy it all: big bottles of Elmer’s glue, boxes of Crayola crayons, colored pens, spiral notebooks. Much of my time in these aisles is spent talking myself down from purchasing what I know I won’t use. Like protractors.
In celebration of school supplies, let me just talk about a little contraption that high school teachers do need.
First of all, not all staplers are created equal. I present to you Exhibit A:
I have had this stapler since my first year of teaching. I have moved classrooms and brought this little buddy along each time. I always make sure to pack it in my box of very important items. You will notice that it’s finally not doing so well. This small metal pin likes to slip out, and then the staples get all wonky.
But I have found that with a few precisely inflicted bangs on a desk, the pin slips right back in place and the staples are neat again.
Now I present Exhibit B, also known as the “student stapler”:
Note that this stapler is plastic, already a mark in its disfavor. I have had this stapler for about 2 years. Notice that it has already lost its ability to stay open in a professional manner. It’s aging and starting to sag, I suppose.
Now that we have examined the available staplers in my classroom, let’s discuss the use of the stapler. You know I don’t like to have a lot of rules in my classroom. By way of explanation, this is because I generally feel compelled to follow any rules that I set; if I set too many, I become overwhelmed.
However, I do have a clear rule about the stapler: once the bell rings, I do the stapling.
Here’s a typical scenario that I’m trying to avoid:
Students walk into the class about 3 or 4 minutes before the bell rings (we have 6 minute passing periods). They joke around, play games on their phones, check their hair, discuss the calculus/biology/chemistry/government test from that morning, talk to me about the St. Louis Cardinals (Okay, I talk to them about the Cardinals; they just sit there looking baffled).
The bell rings.
I get them quiet and ready to go, make any important announcements, and then ask for their essays that are due that day.
While they are rummaging in their bags and pulling out their papers, 15 students stand up and start walking toward my desk.
Or 6 hands shoot up in the air.
Or 8 voices say, “Hey, where’s the stapler?”
Or, let’s get real: all of this happens at the same time.
Let’s consider: in a class of 32 students, if 20 of them need to staple their papers, how long do you think this is going to take? How much class time is this going to waste?
That’s right: a lot. If I let them do this, I could easily lose 10 minutes of my class time.
I don’t like to waste time in my class.
Now, also remember that these same students were in my classroom a good 5 minutes before I asked for the papers. Did they remember to staple their papers before I asked?
Do I need to ask that question?
You really ought to see me on days like this. I move like a vortex around the room, snatching students’ papers before they can stand up or even after they are standing up. “No stapling!” I firmly announce.
On a really good day, I will have remembered to hide the staplers before class.
Here are some sample conversations:
“But Ms. Isgitt, don’t you want us to staple our rough draft to our final draft?”
“Nope. I got this. “
“But, Ms. Isgitt, I didn’t put my name on every sheet.”
“No problem. I’m really good at this. Trust me.”
“But Ms. Isgitt. . .”
“Hey, relax. Stapling is my superpower.”
Now, you may ask, but doesn’t it take too much time to staple all of those papers yourself?
See, I’m going to staple the rubric to the paper anyway, so one less staple at this step is fine.
Also, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m always looking for brainless tasks like this that I can do when I’m really tired but still want to make myself feel like I’m accomplishing something.
Or when I want to watch television.
The last time I collected a paper (last week), I noticed that perhaps I had gone a little too far with my stapling fervor. I called out my typical “No Stapling!” before the crowd could get up out of their seats. Then I noticed several students with already-stapled papers looking around with worried looks on their faces and furtively removing their staples.
How do you handle the stapling rush in your classroom? Or what are the time-devouring occurrences that you have learned to manage? What are some small tweaks that you have made to reduce stress and save class time?