Friday, January 16, 2015

Chalkboard Charlie

Imagine a school classroom: an old school one before the days of a smart board and ipads. this one has a chalkboard dominating and contaminating the teaching space. A lot of people think its obsolete and unnecessary but there it sits, a home for wisdom and feedback; for instruction and rebuke.

In one particular class a kerfuffle broke out one day: as a student, invited to the front to write some feedback on the board, clips its surface with the edge of a watch (it could equally have been a nail or an especially squeaky piece of chalk). The sound, familiar to many and almost universally uncomfortable, resounded through the classroom and before anyone could notice, a previously quiet and serious child in the class sprang to their feet shouting “I’ll kill you!”. As you can imagine it took some time to restore order into the room. The scribe seemed shaken- but defiant that all he was doing was writing.

Later at the staff meeting, teachers gave a variety of responses. The senior leaders decided to keep an eye on the child in question; they decided to look through all his work for signs of previous angry outbursts. Others, betraying their own issues with the dust and residue, suggested that all chalkboards should be removed. Most rolled their eyes at the overreaction, deeming it to be illogical.

But then the next day, the scribe from the first incident took to the board again. He had particularly good writing and was tall enough to reach the board so was often called on. But this time he didn’t simply write. He, with great care, ripped his nail down the edge of the board. The child from yesterday was incandescent. He leapt from his chair, wheeling his arms towards the scribe and not caring who got in the way. The scribe, far from shocked, smirked as he defended his right to be at the board.

The teacher intervened, hauling away the angry phobic young man with tears in his eyes. He was taken to the Head’s office to be monitored and punished. The scribe continued to move his nail up and down the board in celebration of his victory over furious zeal.

But the scribe didn’t notice the rest of the room. He didn’t notice the hands go over ears, he didn’t notice the agitation of the quiet young woman in the corner, one who would never cause a fuss but who had been turned on for she was the sister of the raging reactionary. The scribe did not notice that students in other classrooms were beginning to look up, disturbed but this universally difficult sound.

For our scribe, articulate and bright as they were, was also deaf.

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