I stand at this post every morning. I try to greet each child as they come up the stairs, one new child from Iraq gets a Salam wa aleikum which always gets me a big smile. The girl from Nepal says Namaste to me every morning. The boy from Burundi says a formal Good Morning Mrs. Octopus. And the Eritrean girls throw their arms around me and say Dehandalahi. The Karin girls say no low eh (you are pretty). I get ignored, I get hugged, I get laughed at, people stop to chat with me, people wave as they rush by. It is a busy post, I miss it when I have a meeting, I feel like I don’t know which kids are in the building. They miss me too, where were you yesterday, are you feeling better?
Today as I was standing at this post my friend who is an art teacher turned TA came up to me with this basket full of pencils. Ms. Gregory do you want these. Of course I said. What is their story? The first grade teacher was throwing them away. What? Why? I said incredulous. They do not have erasers, said the TA with what I know is absolute disbelief. I rescued as many as I could. Oh my God are you kidding me? What was she thinking? Really. Wow. The girls from Burma were there and the little girl from Iran, whose beautiful black braid is at least 3 inches in diameter. Why would you throw those away said the girl from Iraq quietly. I have no idea I said. This is our planet and throwing all these pencils away is a waste, a terrible waste and I think it shows a lack of care and consideration for our planet. Oh she said softly, it is, I cannot believe anyone would throw them away. The Karin girl took a pencil out, look I said, it is brand new, but no eraser. I said, if you really want an eraser you can get a whole box (144) of pencil top erasers for less than one dollar. The cost of just 12 of these pencils is exactly 96 cents. That is not right they all said. I am sure that the people in the refugee camps they came from would be happy as clams to have these pencils, even without the eraser.
As they walk away I find myself wondering how many of these pencils are thrown away each year in schools, just because they have no eraser. I am filled with disgust. What a shameful waste.
I spend my whole planning period sharpening them, not all because my sharpener gets hot and stops working.
Later the 1st graders in my afterschool program, use them to write their names on the dragons we are making.
I stop then and write a note for the bulletin board. Save us from certain death I say with the pencil taped to the top. Donate us to the art room.