Saturday, September 8, 2012

Little Barbershop Quartet of Horrors

Hey, have I mentioned that I'm a teacher?

I think I might have let that cat out of the bag somewhere back in my 462 posts. And as a teacher, I am a consumer of dry erase markers. Not a consumer, as in ingesting them to metabolize for energy to carry out my life processes. Oh, did I mention that I teach biology? I think I did. By consumer, I mean that I buy them with my own money to use in the education of your children. That's a collective your. Don't get all panicky and think, "Children? What children? I don't have any children. That I know of."

My consumption of markers is not as robust as it used to be. Back in the days when I taught smaller, more hands-on classes of at-risk youth, assisting them with their algebra needs, I went through a lot of markers. Working problems on the board with different colors for variables and coefficients can unlock the mystery of letters in math equations for some individuals. Allowing students to write out their problems on the board can assist the kinesthetic learners. And others can follow along and see mistakes as they happen. Everybody is at the same level. One big not-quite-happy family, working together to solve algebraic equations on the white board.

But I'm not here to wax poetic on my algebra-teaching acumen. The point is that kids are rough on dry erase markers, leaving the caps off, jamming them into the white board within inches of their fume-emitting lives, dropping them frequently, stacking them together cap-to-end until they have a three-foot multicolored pointer, etc. Now that I rarely let students write on my white board, my markers last longer. Especially when I only put out two on the chalk tray at a time. But they DO wear out from my own daily use.

I picked up a starter pack of dry erase markers a couple of weeks ago. I needed a new eraser. And I needed a bottle of cleaning spray. Of course Walmart was low on dry erase supplies due to every elementary school teacher in the state of Missouri requesting dry erase markers from each student on their back-to-school supply list. I wish high school teachers could get a piece of that action.

Expo, the teacher's pal, was not in evidence. The pegboard was bereft of Expos. But I snagged a Quartet starter pack. Four markers, an eraser, and a small bottle of cleaning spray. Just what I needed, I assumed. No need to grab a large pack with neon colors that kids can't read from the back row. Black, red, green, and blue are good enough for me. Blue for physics, green for biology, red for test dates, and black for special emphasis.

I am not singing the praises of this Quartet.

Quartet is the cinnamon babka, The lesser babka of the dry erase marker bakery. Expo is the chocolate babka that everybody craves and raves about. I can't wait for my Quartet to be consumed or grow stale enough to discard. Oh, they write adequately enough. But they refuse to be erased. They leave ghosts on my white board. I am not enamored of the daily spray-cleaning this Quartet requires. They are as high-maintenance as a spoiled debutante. Give me the old blue-collar Expos any day.

Along with the unpleasant after-image, the Quartet further annoys me by playing hard-to-get. Their lids require two empty hands for removal. Not one empty hand and another clutching a sheaf of papers or a water cup or a stack of ISS assignments. The cap of the Quartet is akin to a chastity belt. Their daily deflowering is almost not worth the effort. I suspect that my Quartet will be smashed in a fit of rage before they dry out. I grudgingly wrestle some board writing out of them every morning. I can't just toss them out like a baby with the bathwater.

It's not like throwing away the school's money.


  1. Teachers have to stretch supplies and cover too many expenses themselves these days. And why don't teachers get the respect they deserve?

  2. We're only as good as our tools, I learned. Next time hold out for the Expos.

  3. Oh h3ll, one day while I was lecturing and writing on the whiteboard I went clear off the board and onto the wall beside it! Ha! I bet that those words may still be on the wall!

  4. You'd like some of the elementary school action? This is the kind of action you can get a piece of:

    "He's looking at me."
    "She butted."
    "I got to use it."
    "My nose is bleeding." (Stop picking it.)
    "I'm done." (solving 25 2-digit from 2-digit subtraction problems in 1.7 minutes)

    You REALLY want some of this?

  5. Maybe you can give them away as "rewards?"

  6. Stephen,
    My district may be a bit low on money available for supplies, but I am thankful that we have respect from the majority of the parents. Small and rural...that's the way to go.

    Indeed. I have seen the error of my haste.

    Now THAT is a passion that I am sorely lacking!

    I was thinking more along the lines of material goods...

    While selfless and charitable, that tactic would not recoup my monetary loss, nor make me feel like Mother Teresa. I will use my Quartet until they can no longer squeak out a single line. Mostly, to punish myself for carelessly buying an untested product.