Wednesday, January 17, 2007

washing my sins away

I'm not used to white boards. Back home I have an enormous blackboard that extends from the floor to the ceiling and covers an entire wall. I love to fill it up, and I take advantage of the space to leave certain things up there for days even weeks. My students also take advantage of the space to practice various forms of graffitti and art, always within the bounds of good taste of course. Here I alternate between white boards and chalk boards depending on the room I'm in. Also, I have to bring my own markers with me... yet another personal challenge since I am in the habit of leaving them behind when I leave (funny how they're never there when I return the following week).
So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I entered B110 and found in the tray a black marker. I proceeded to conduct class and fill up the board with sundry vocab words and sample sentences. Toward the end of the class I needed more room so took the eraser and swept it over my scribblings... nothing happened, and then a gasp went up from the room, mostly girls who really now how to gasp. Just to make sure I wasn't hallucinating I tried again. My words were still there, like Poe's raven.
I stared at the marker in my hand... read the label "permanent marker". A little voice in my head said, "Stupid!" But my mouth said, "Why would somebody leave a marker like this on the tray?" The students smiled at me as if to say, do you really have to ask such a question? I turned back to the board and redoubled my efforts, pressing hard against the board. I managed to smear black ink across the once pristine surface. Each motion I made triggered another round of oohh la la's from the girls. Finally my arm grew weary. Time was running out on the period. Soon I would have to leave to teach another class in a different room... and one of my colleagues would be coming in here...that thought appalled me. They would know it was my writing... I have the worst handwriting in the country plus the contents were all in English. The entire board stood as a monument to the incompetent American. I felt completely at a loss. The bell was due to ring in three or four minutes.
And then Theo, one of the most committed chatterboxes in the room, seemed to perceive an opportunity. He stood up and offered to leave the room and find something to clean the board. I nodded yes and he was gone in a flash. I was struck by his alacrity, not even the prospect of cutting into his free time between classes seemed to outweigh the opportunity to go out there on some kind of mission.
Amazingly he was back before the bell rang with a rag and a bottle of some kind of cleaner. I tried it and the ink came off, all my sins washed away. The girls oohed and ahhed some more. The bell rang but several of them hung around to see the job finished. I handed the stuff back to Theo who smiled and said, "Ca merite une bonne note." I smiled back. There is no grade good enough for what you did. I said to him. He shrugged and said, "See you later alligator."
"See ya soon racoon."
I left the room for my next was midway into the period when I remembered that I had left the permanent black marker on the tray of the white board... I made a mental note to go and get it, and then promptly forgot it.


Anonymous erin said...

This was such a suspenseful story! I am laughing as I realized my stomach was knotted. Well done, Dad (and Theo!).

11:23 PM  
Blogger kc said...

If you were my only reader that would be more than enough for me.

3:09 AM  
Anonymous Missy said...

I couldn't believe it when something very similar happened at the Statesman Journal on the 18th!

A lady from Marketing was at the dry erase board at the inaugural session of some new Newsroom (or Information Center) training, at the request of the Executive Editor.

She managed to write three things (one was a large number fifteen: 15) on the whiteboard with a black crayola marker before she realized it was not the correct marker. She had the same reaction: she tried rubbing away the ink even though she knew it wouldn't budge. Poor dear. I sent her your post in an effort to make her feel better...and the next day, we hosted former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber in the same meeting room. He made a presentation on the same whiteboard and it had never looked cleaner.

11:37 PM  
Blogger kc said...

funny how much more I "managed" to write...invincible ignorance I think they call it.

8:18 AM  

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