It occurred to me today that chalkboards are now as obsolete as Easter bonnets. You can find them in a few primitive communities and ancient church Sunday school rooms, but for the most part chalkboards have been replaced by the more classroom-friendly dry erase board. It’s sad for me, as possessing supreme power of the chalk was one of the main reasons I wanted to become a teacher in the first place. Getting to be master of the markers is not quite as glorious, more like fancy kindergarten.
I remember staying in at recess and inventing writing games to play on the board, just for the sake of practice. I remember my eccentric science teacher in fourth grade showing us how you could make the chalk skip across the board making dots by holding it at a certain angle. And, saddest of all, gone is the childhood joy of banging chalk dust out of erasers onto the board itself, onto classmates, and into the grass outside of the building. I realized that this is a memory that I could share with Laura Ingalls but not with my own fourth grade students.
Aesthetically, the green board is a loss, for what better complements the red-apple decor of school days? The giant white board now dominating the front of most classrooms is impersonal and intimidating, evoking thoughts of arctic tundra, hospital corridors, and women’s legs in the winter.
Besides, when you want to get the attention of a classroom full of unruly teens, scratching fingernails across a chalkboard was always a sure last resort (just ask Sister Mary Clarence). All we can do now is to keep the door shut and hope the fumes from the dry erase markers will eventually slow the pranksters down.
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