There’s a troll living in my classroom. I’ve never seen him, but I know at night he sneaks out and steals students’ homework right out of their desks. Sometimes he pulls it right out of their books! But he doesn’t just mess with the students; he’s also been known to take my important papers and hide them – or eat them – right before somebody asks me for them.
We’ve had to take steps to foil this evil creature. Every year I ask my students how many of them have had homework mysteriously disappear. I then explain that I have solved the mystery and tell them about that diabolical troll. “Aha!” they exclaim, and, “I knew it all along!” I confess that I have suffered at the hands of the troll, too, which is why I never let them put assignments into my hands. Instead, all assignments go into my One Hundred Percent Troll-Proof Homework Box (which lives on top of my little refrigerator).
I then tell them the best part – they, too, can keep their papers safe in the Troll-Proof box! If, for example, they have an ongoing assignment like DOL (Daily Oral Language), and they’re afraid the troll will steal it before they need it again, they are welcome to stow it safely in an empty folder in the box, instead of hiding it in a book or binder.
I then explain my problem with object permanence: I can carry something into a room, set it down, and it no longer exists for me. A little later, when I have to recall where I left it, I can’t seem to get a clear picture. Since I have spent far too many hours of my life searching for my car keys or my coffee mug, I’ve learned to always put them in the same place, and/or to put my name on everything (that way it finds its own way back to me). And, because I used to lose students’ homework assignments, I now put my hands up in the air when a student tries to give me a paper. “Put it in the box,” I say, “where it will be safe.”
Many students can empathize, and they are relieved to hear they’re not alone. I gently deliver the bad news: some of them will never outgrow this problem; therefore, they need to figure out coping strategies similar to my Troll-Proof Box. If they can develop their own strategies now, they will save themselves much heartache later.
Now if I can only figure out how to remember a conversation once I’ve walked away. . .