I Still Use the Chalkboard

I visited my new classrooms today, and the feelings return: I feel so excited to meet these new students.

I touch each seat and wonder who might sit there.

I begin to imagine the discussions, the community, and the magnificent writing.

I love the smell of this room.

I run my hand along the chalkboards and notice the position of the projector screens. Now, most classrooms come equipped with any kind of technology you want. You could just stand up there, direct students to a screen (or two or three) and disappear if you wished. You could put as many screens between you and a live student as you needed to.

I don’t do this. I can’t do this.

I love classrooms that allow for the ancient practice of chalk and chalkboard. I feel grounded with the chalk in my hand–like we’re all really sitting right here together and not in some imaginary place online.

We’re here.

I know because I’m covered in the white fairy dust of chalk that falls down on me with every vivid verb I list. Chalk I can feel. Chalk I can smell. Chalk I can even taste. Chalk I can place into your palm when you agree to teach us something and try your hand at the chalkboard.

I still use chalk.

I also still ask students to pull out pen and paper to brainstorm. I love the sound of it–the swish and exhale of a newly released notebook page that a student reluctantly hands me, apologizing for spelling and handwriting. I see their personalities in the human trace they leave on the page.

Go ahead and tap your fingers on the desk. Feel the cool page. Nibble on the end of your eraser. Put pencil to the line and let something loose.

I’m old-fashioned, and I will teach you to be, too.


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