fourzoas: (DW Babs)
[personal profile] fourzoas

It was 3:55 p.m. on a balmy Friday afternoon at the close of the Spring term. I scooted into the campus bookstore right before closing time, my sights set on procuring the one thing that I'd been fixated on since the end of my morning class. I shimmied my pregnant body through the too-close racks of sweatshirts and t-shirts and those obnoxious quilt-fabric purses with matching accessories as I headed toward my destination: the unassuming back corner where the actual instruments of learning--paper, pens, pencils, protractors--resided. I quickly scanned the shelves, willing myself to resist the siren song of the multi-colored razor point pens, the earthy scents of the hardwood number 2 pencils, and the neatly stacked spiral-bound notebooks. I wanted one thing and one thing alone: a box of a dozen sticks of white chalk.

My campus is small, and the majority of the classrooms sport gorgeous long expanses of black or brown chalkboards, their velvet textures the perfect receptacle for the musical tick tick tick of a freshly-plucked stick. I love filling the boards with my teaching scribbles, a curious mixture of lists and assignments and arrows and even the occasional geometric figure or stick person. These are the kinds of boards that defy the chalk to squeak across their surfaces, and when I put the chalk to them, I feel the symbiosis of body and board, the white marks an ephemeral recording of our union.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm no technophobe. I teach a course about our lives online. I frequently use the internet as a class textbook. I'm aware that there's always an app for that. It's just that all too often the best teaching tool in my arsenal is that unassuming bit of hardened dust.

When I walked into the bookstore, I didn't expect the chalk to have received pride of place with the other writing instruments. In fact, I expected to find it on the lowest shelf, neglected but waiting, a thin layer of bookstore detritus clinging to its surface. It's the tool of the teacher (or the really industrious student who fills the boards with new ideas during their off-duty hours), and, as such, not of notice to the student shopper. My eyes flitted up and down, left and right, certain they'd see the familiar green and yellow package or identify some other off-brand.

My eyes saw nothing. There was no chalk.

I checked again, certain that this store, a college bookstore on a campus filled with beautiful brown and black boards, had to stock this most vital of tools. I scanned the U-shape of the back corner shelving. Rainbow pens. Golden pencils. Notebooks in the school colors, the college's name stamped in silver or gold. Drafting paper. Science lab notebooks. Big pink erasers. No chalk.

I asked the salesclerk, who now at 2 minutes past closing time was ready to turn the key in the already closed door, and she confirmed what I already suspected; the franchise didn't stock it, chalk no longer being enough of a profitable item to keep on the shelves. I navigated the racks again, this time making note of how much floor space they took up relative to the actual shelves of textbooks (all cordoned off to be shipped back to the publishers) and the other instruments I considered necessities of learning. The store made it so much easier to put on the outward appearance of the student than fill the soul of one.

So began my quest. The summer was hot and I was very pregnant and I was determined to find chalk. I tried the big chain office supply and discount stores where I found large buckets of brightly colored chalks for games of hopscotch but none of the smaller, more practical sticks. I became increasingly annoyed with the supremacy of the whiteboards, those smooth, slick, and sleek replacements who welcomed the touch of smelly and colorful markers and required spray bottles of special cleansers to make them pristine again. My chalkboards were fresh with a wash of plain water.

I finally found what I was seeking at a traditional teacher supply store, the kind filled with brightly colored bulletin board materials, old school wooden puzzles, and lesson planning books. I bought two boxes and, because I was so very excited to have completed my quest, I picked up one of those metal chalk holders too. The sales clerk must have thought me insane, a grown and growing woman giddy over a $5 purchase of the most pedestrian of items, but I didn't care. On the first day of classes I slid a fresh stick of chalk into the fire-red holder and tucked it into my briefcase. I walked into the room and smiled at the pristine black boards covering two entire walls in the classroom. I grabbed my little red helper, clicked the button to advance the chalk, and wrote my name on the board. The school year had officially begun.

Written in response to the Topic 2 prompt at [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol: Uphill, both ways, barefoot.

on 2009-10-30 08:34 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] stormkitty.livejournal.com
I was so very sad the day I walked into my first (and only) classroom to find white boards only. The markers move too fast, making it difficult to write neatly. My college had chalkboards and that's where we all practiced how to write our name in big neat block letters for the students to read.

on 2009-10-30 09:01 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
I can understand your sadness and a big yes about the markers!

on 2009-10-30 08:37 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] garpu.livejournal.com
oooh, I like this and the world you create. :)

personally, I'm kind of happy for the prevalence of whiteboards--I'm pretty allergic to chalk and dust. Whenever I'm in a room with a lot of chalk, I'm sniffling and sneezing by the end of it.

on 2009-10-30 09:02 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks!

I understand the allergy thing, and I think that's why whiteboards are fast replacing chalkboards. I still love 'em, though, and hate that whiteboards come with such a high price tag for use (the markers aren't cheap).

on 2009-10-30 08:43 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] supremegoddess1.livejournal.com
touching chalk gives me the willies.

on 2009-10-30 09:03 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
I can understand that; there are particular textures that I find intolerable.

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Posted by [identity profile] supremegoddess1.livejournal.com - on 2009-10-30 09:16 pm (UTC) - Expand

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Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com - on 2009-10-30 09:46 pm (UTC) - Expand

on 2009-10-30 09:03 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] catholicphoton.livejournal.com
You're a woman of exquisite taste!

I say that because I've always preferred the tickety-tack of chalk to the squeek of markers ;-)

on 2009-10-30 09:05 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Those markers do get all squeaky, don't they? To be fair, though, there are moments when the chalk/board symbiosis can be squeektastic as well.

But that tick tick tick is mighty crisp, especially on a cool fall morning.

on 2009-10-30 09:06 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] oneonthefence.livejournal.com
Nothing like the sound of chalk on a chalkboard. I hate the feeling of chalk, but just thinking about chalk itself is flooding me with memories of both being a student and a teacher. Well told.

on 2009-10-30 09:41 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks! I'm glad my little piece brought back memories, and I hope they were good ones!

on 2009-10-30 09:09 pm (UTC)
ext_43: proust quote: let us be happy to those that make us happy.  They are the constant gardners that make our souls blossom. (Martha - Torch)
Posted by [identity profile] drho.livejournal.com
It's too bad the university doesn't stock classrooms with chalk for you.

on 2009-10-30 09:43 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
The college sort of does; I think the admins in various buildings put chalk out into the rooms. I just find that it's better to have my own for the days like the one that started this whole quest, when I found myself in a room with no chalk at all.

on 2009-10-30 09:22 pm (UTC)
ext_3965: (Books John Smith)
Posted by [identity profile] persiflage-1.livejournal.com
We had whiteboards and OHP (OverHead Projectors) when I was in college. Lectures were prepared and printed onto the slides. Ditto if students were giving presentations. No chalk, no marker pens. Seriously WEIRD!

on 2009-10-30 09:44 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
That does sound strange! I can't imagine teaching without having some way to write stuff; how can you know what questions will be asked ahead of time?

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Posted by [identity profile] persiflage-1.livejournal.com - on 2009-10-31 05:23 am (UTC) - Expand

on 2009-10-30 11:30 pm (UTC)
shadowwolf13: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] shadowwolf13
I love chalkboards and used them as jumping off points for two of my dreamcatchers recently. :) Wonderful story. :)

on 2009-10-31 01:07 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Glad you enjoyed! Did you use the boards to jot down ideas or were they integral in the dreamcatcher-making?

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Posted by [personal profile] shadowwolf13 - on 2009-10-31 01:51 am (UTC) - Expand

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Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com - on 2009-11-01 03:11 am (UTC) - Expand

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Posted by [personal profile] shadowwolf13 - on 2009-11-01 03:11 am (UTC) - Expand

on 2009-10-31 01:28 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] faerie-spark.livejournal.com
Marvelous! I really enjoyed this. The listing of small details really makes it come alive.

I love this line:

The store made it so much easier to put on the outward appearance of the student than fill the soul of
one.

Too true! Too true!

Excellent work.

on 2009-11-01 03:11 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks so much--I'm glad you enjoyed it and appreciate the feedback!

on 2009-10-31 02:38 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] lavendergem.livejournal.com
Bri9lliant entry! You have a musical, lyrical quality to your descriptions that I enjoyed immensely!

My favorite passage was "...their velvet textures the perfect receptacle for the musical tick tick tick of a freshly-plucked stick. I love filling the boards with my teaching scribbles, a curious mixture of lists and assignments and arrows and even the occasional geometric figure or stick person. These are the kinds of boards that defy the chalk to squeak across their surfaces, and when I put the chalk to them, I feel the symbiosis of body and board, the white marks an ephemeral recording of our union.

Great stuff!!

on 2009-11-01 03:12 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
*blushes*

Thanks so much for the comment; that was one of the bits I think I enjoyed the most.

on 2009-10-31 04:42 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] jenandbronze.livejournal.com
Chlalkboards seem to have far too much dust these days to even be used now, which is so sad. I had my own chalkboard in my bedroom, and always played school with it, longing for the days to become a teacher myself. Now I can't read chalkboard writing with my very limited eye sight and have replaced it with a large white board, to write notes, and decorate and make funny notes.

Ah the wondrous days of chalkboard I so loved.

Great story to bring back such fond memories.

on 2009-11-01 03:15 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Even with the "dustless" chalk, I find the whole experience to still be a dusty affair. Since I favor lots of black clothing, I suffer a wee bit because of it. Still, I wouldn't trade them for a world of white boards (even if I have one in my office).

I really love that you played school with your chalkboard as a child and am so glad my post invoked fond memories for you!

on 2009-10-31 06:31 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/____hejira/
Interesting take on the topic. Good entry.

on 2009-11-01 03:15 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks; I'm glad you found it interesting!

on 2009-10-31 04:32 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] pixie117.livejournal.com
Another pain abour markers: You might have 5 or 6 of them in your classroom and NONE of them work. Decieving. Chalk never does that. If it is there, it works.

on 2009-11-01 03:16 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
OMG, I totally forgot about that little annoyance. YES YES YES. Chalk, while dusty, is superior in so many ways.

on 2009-10-31 06:05 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] sherriola.livejournal.com
I loved this! one of my most constant memories of school is hearing the teacher write on the blackboard, the smell of the chalk, and the sound of the eraser on the board. I'd never thought about it being an art, a tool this has lost popularity. I hope you can always find more chalk.

on 2009-11-01 03:21 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
As long as chalkboards linger on walls, I'm sure I'll be able to find chalk. That tick tick tick is a wonderful portal back to childhood for many! Thanks for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed!

on 2009-10-31 06:34 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] onda-bianca.livejournal.com
Haha, I absolutely cannot stand to even touch chalk...I'm so happy we have whiteboards. Otherwise, it'd be overhead projector for everything!

on 2009-11-01 03:22 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
LOL--I understand completely: to each his/her own! Overhead projectors have their use, but are also, sadly, becoming an endangered species.

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Posted by [identity profile] onda-bianca.livejournal.com - on 2009-11-01 02:27 pm (UTC) - Expand

on 2009-10-31 08:05 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] java-fiend.livejournal.com
I have a confession to make... a relatively soon-to-be teacher, I loathe the chalkboards... the textures and sounds they make.... I soooo much prefer the whiteboards. lol... sorry. :-) I love your enthusiasm though... I really enjoyed your entry.

on 2009-11-01 03:23 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
I'm glad you enjoyed the entry even if you don't enjoy using its subject! Thanks for reading!

on 2009-10-31 08:29 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] norda.livejournal.com
I liked this very, very much.

on 2009-11-01 03:23 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you--I'm glad you enjoyed it!

on 2009-11-01 03:04 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] poppetawoppet.livejournal.com
not gonna lie, as a music teacher white boards>>chalkboards. But I do understand how you feel a little.

on 2009-11-01 03:24 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
No worries: we all have our favorite tools, and I can understand the lure of whiteboards! Thanks for reading and commenting!

on 2009-11-01 03:58 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] johnmill79.livejournal.com
Yeah, we rarely hear that sound anymore. It certainly was the soundtrack of my childhood, though. I enjoyed this.

on 2009-11-02 05:33 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
I'm glad you enjoyed it and thanks for reading/commenting!

on 2009-11-01 06:58 pm (UTC)
ext_5285: (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] kiwiria.livejournal.com
This made me awfully nostalgic to read. Great entry.

on 2009-11-02 05:33 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you! I got a good dose of that nostalgia in class today as my lesson required a good amount of board work.
Edited on 2009-11-02 05:34 pm (UTC)

on 2009-11-01 11:07 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] baxaphobia.livejournal.com
Who'd have thought that chalk seems almost obsolete. And I hate the smell of white board markers! Yuck!

on 2009-11-02 05:34 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Those markers are icky sicky smelling. I think chalk will still be around for a while, but I was really shocked at how tough it was for me to find in the stores, especially the campus bookstore!

on 2009-11-02 12:05 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] karmasoup.livejournal.com
I love this. There are so many things in life that may be trivial to others, but are an absolute necessity to us in order to accomplish certain tasks. There are a number of forms I can't sign without my favorite pen, so, I get it.

on 2009-11-02 05:36 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Oh, dear, don't get me started on pens! I can stand before that section in Office Depot for ages. Then there's my fountain pen collection...

I must admit to being the same way about my computer keyboard, though; I've got to make sure the keys have a certain amount of "bounce" before I get a new one!

on 2009-11-02 03:36 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] zia-narratora.livejournal.com
I loved this piece! I love how you were able to weave descriptions and a feeling of nostalgia and beauty into a tale that is about something so simple and commonplace. Really nice work.

on 2009-11-02 05:37 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm really glad that you enjoyed this bit!

on 2009-11-02 03:50 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] majesticarky.livejournal.com
I can't say I agree with you about liking chalk over whiteboards and markers, but I did enjoy your quest for chalk! It's great you triumphed in the end : D.

on 2009-11-02 05:38 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
LOL--I do feel a bit triumphant, yes! I know that not everyone feels the way that I do about chalk/chalkboards--and that many folks love whiteboards--but we all have something that we hope will never change, something that we'd walk uphill, both ways, barefoot to find, don't we? :-)

on 2009-11-03 12:29 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] beloved-tree.livejournal.com
Ah, I love this piece. :) I'm a total chalkboard junkie myself, and this conjured up all the textures and the smell that make me love it so much.

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