Just like I knew I was going to loathe the Livestrong bracelets (and their colorful counterfeit cousins) , I could tell as soon as my students started wearing two or three of those rubbery wristbands that I would rue the day I allowed them into my classroom. As if hanging a dozen or more Kooky pens off their backpacks wasn’t enough to divert my students’ attention from learning and following directions, suddenly, these nifty, stretchy, instantly collectible shape-shifting rubber bands started popping up – wound around wrists, arms, ankles, even pencils. ARGH!
What happens is this: one child wears one rubber band to school one day. She takes it off and shows her friends how cool it is – look, it’s a gecko! And then the next day, that child comes to school wearing two rubber bands. And her friends each have one on, too. At first, I don’t notice them. They’re innocuous enough. But after a few days, I begin to see five or six multi-colored bands on my students’ wrists. And they take them off and trade them with each other while I’m reading aloud or when we’re watching an educational video on BrainPop (never, of course, during actual instruction; no, that would never happen…). But while they’re trading, some fall on the floor and get lost, resulting in panic at the end of the day when all the bracelets can’t be located. Someone ends up in tears. I realize these novelties are quickly becoming a detriment to our classroom community. I warn, I cajole, I threaten. And then I start to think seriously about banning them from my classroom.
When I was a child, we left our collections (shells, stamps, coins, stickers) at home. We certainly didn’t bring them to school to show off how cool we were because we had a bushel of them hanging off our backpacks! (Besides, it would have been silly to hang shells, stamps, coins, or stickers off our backpacks. Especially since we didn’t even have backpacks. That’s how old I am.)
I’m torn because I loved collecting things myself and took great pride in amassing large quantities of my treasures, especially doll house furniture. Oh, how I loved going to the miniatures store – Jaqueline’s off Memorial, near Town and Country – to select just the right accessories to add to the dining room hutch or the parents’ en suite bedroom or the nursery. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what I love to do now, only on a much larger scale.
Anyway, I know how important collections are to kids, and how important it is to “fit in” – no one wants to be the only child in the class without a collection of the latest maddeningly appealing fad, but geez, Louise! Do they have to make them so portable, wearable, tradeable, and clipable??? You wouldn’t believe how many times I heard, “I had a Sir Kooksalot on my backpack and now it’s goooonnnnne!” or “I traded my dolphin bracelet and now she won’t give it back!” this year.
So I struggle with how to honor my students’ desires to be unique, to show off their collections, to drive me completely crazy because they’re not paying attention to what I’m saying – without being the fun police. Uniformity in a classroom can be an asset when it comes to dress codes, school supplies, and backpacks – it de-emphasizes the acquisition of material things and prevents some of the inevitable interruptions that occur during the school day. But I also want them to express their personalities and creativity, and their collections are part of that experience.
So I’m thinking about allowing one backpack hanging item/trinket next year. That way, the kids can convey their individuality if they wish, and I can maintain some semblance of control over the situation. I also think I’ll be a big meanie and ban the Bandz right off the bat. That way, the kids will be forced to seek out the next annoying craze sooner rather than later.