I paid $20 for a new stapler tonight. It’s not gold plated, but it IS guaranteed to be jam-free. For years I had a shiny chrome Swingline stapler which sat on the corner of my desk, defying any student to harm it. At the end of last year one of my students managed to pop the spring out of place. In my attempts to pop it back in, I mangled the spring so badly I had to bury it at sea. (Okay, I tossed it in the trash, but that sounds like such a dishonorable ending for such a work of art.)
I started this year with a new stapler, neither shiny nor defiant. Not even a Swingline, it’s a bargain brand chosen from the Office Max catalog by our school secretary. She’s doing a great job of keeping our office supply expenses within the budget, but she doesn’t understand the psyche of the young adolescent. (Nor do I, actually, but I do a good job of appearing like I do!)
Young adolescents (12 to 14-year-olds) are a danger to our materialistic goods for a number of reasons. To begin with, they’re inquisitive without much sense of how fragile an object may be. “Oo, what’s this?” they say as they grab whatever catches their eye. If this behavior sounds familiar, it may be because you saw it in them when they were about 3. The cause hasn’t changed; their curiosity once again is outweighing their judgment. This leads them to squeeze, shake, and manipulate items, the better to explore them.
Secondly, this age group is clumsy. When they enter a growth spurt, hands and feet grow first, followed by legs and arms, and finishing with the torso. Consequently, adolescents drop things, knock them over, and crash into them as a regular daily activity. Casualties in my classroom over the years have included a small lamp, two CD players, multiple staplers and tape dispensers (the middle wheel gets lost), the carpet (seven-year-old ink stains), window shades, several office chairs, and a pencil sharpener. I don’t supply or decorate my classroom with anything too valuable, for obvious reasons.
And lastly, the bubble effect – that phenomenon that narrows their view to within a few inches of themselves – comes into play. In this case it takes the form of not being able to think through possible consequences of their actions. This is why they are shocked when the basketball hits the light fixture, or the cell phone smashes on the floor instead of being caught. It just didn’t occur to them that such an accident could occur!
You do have some choices during these difficult years:
- Store your valuables and replace them with garage sale finds;
- Stick everything down with Command Adhesive;
- Increase the replacement value on your homeowner’s insurance;
- Stock up on Kleenex (for the tears you’ll shed when the family heirloom is destroyed).
Me? I’ll keep an eye on my new heavy-duty stapler while moving a table over the ink stains and enjoying the sounds of my ancient CD player that’s missing several buttons – did you know you can still make it work if you press hard on that little metal thingy inside?