stapler

The Story of the Stapler

Lisa Moberg Education

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In late July, I was sitting in the cardboard box in a warm dark corner of a classroom, waiting for my owner to arrive.  This is my 20th year of sitting in the box during the summer months, waiting for the voices to come back: adults, children, sometimes a classroom pet or two.  I’ve lived in two states and been in over 15 classroom homes.  To say I’m durable, flexible, and trustworthy would be an understatement!  I haven’t given up on my important role in education, and neither has my owner.  We have shared some good times and bad times, and as any human would admit, learned a few lessons along the way…

It all began in 1997 when my owner received me as a gift.  She had received a new job as a preschool teacher at a private preschool.  I wasn’t used a lot this year, except to hang up colorful artwork on the bulletin boards.  It was a happy year as my owner was getting married, and the students learned their ABC’s and 123’s through art and music.  There were many school days that the classroom remained quiet as the children went on field trips to local businesses and events to learn about their community.  We all learned to value our parts of the community and to respect each member’s role in it as well.

The next year I moved up north about 45 minutes away to a small, quiet rural town with a small, bustling elementary school.  It was an eventful four years in this little area.  Families were involved in every aspect of school!  My owner got married and had a baby.  I even survived an earthquake—although I was almost buried under some books!  Then on an eventful day, September 11th, I heard a lot of crying and children leaving to go home early.  Parents were panic-stricken yet the teachers tried to stay calm.  Sheets of plastic, duct tape, and MYSELF were placed by my owner’s door, and I heard talk about protection against terrorists.  After about a week, the classroom went back to normal, and the families were back.  Children were actively engaged in their learning because they observed their parents’ investment in their education.

After four years I went down to an urban school along a very large river.  It rained a lot; it’s a miracle I didn’t get rusty.  My owner had another baby, and she would bring him late at night to the classroom while catching up on work.  One night I was stuck with this screaming baby as she accidentally locked herself out of the building!  (Don’t worry, a teammate came to let her back in the building.)  Our school was part of a new concept in education, called “The Learning Network.”  Highly-effective educators were identified as coaches in specific content areas, and they would coach educators for half a day to become master teachers in these subjects.  Coaches were only allowed to serve in this capacity for two years as the network believed that they needed to be fresh from the classroom to fully understand how teachers need support.  My owner taught in a classroom that received writing support.  She learned to always model writing when teaching writing skills.  The students were always writing—journaling their new learning in every subject area and creating masterpiece stories—and they were only in first grade!  The students’ reading abilities were elevated by the increased rigor and frequency of writing in the classroom.

My life got a little more heated after two years by the rainy river—we moved down to the desert in Arizona!!  This is when my owner’s perspective of relationships changed.  She began to understand that the only way to help people change is to really know them, including her students.  One of those students was Mary.  She was a very kind, sensitive little girl with a big heart.  Mary was struggling with her reading skills, and my owner wanted to meet with her guardians to discuss how to help her further.  Mary’s parents had left when the illegal immigration crackdown began, and she lived with her grandmother who only spoke Spanish.  They didn’t have a computer or phone to communicate with, so a translator wrote a note in Spanish, inviting the grandmother to a predetermined conference at school.  As the hours ticked by past the appointed conference time, it was understood that the family was a no-show.  It wasn’t surprising, but my owner felt a sense of urgency as Mary was suffering academically.  The next day, she sent another note, stating that if they didn’t come to a conference, she would stop by the house for a visit.  It wasn’t meant as a threat but was perceived as one.  The grandmother came immediately after receiving the note, and they had a great conference, although it was concerning that the grandmother was in visible physical pain.  When asked about it, she replied that she had been involved in farm equipment accident, but she could not go to the hospital to receive help.  Reading between the lines- she was an illegal immigrant.  It was heartbreaking to see the pain she was in, but this devoted woman was staying in the United States to keep Mary in a school that could help her with her educational needs.  Later, the teacher asked Mary why the grandmother came so quickly after she received the second note.  “Abuela doesn’t want you to know where we live,” she replied, “you might tell the police.”  Curious about what that meant, my owner followed her school bus a few days later, and watched Mary go to her house.  They lived in an abandoned shack, with no windows or electricity.  It was a bittersweet reminder of how some parents/guardians will do anything for their children to receive an education.

This year is yet another change in my surroundings.  My owner has decided to make a leap from teaching primary grades to middle school!!  She looked very nervous the first day of school, wondering if those “big kids” would like her and how they would connect.  The first month went smoothly, and she is finding her groove as a Language Arts teacher for kids taller than herself!  I hear her muttering, “Why did I wait this long to move to middle school?  What did I have to fear?”  Fear… the dread of the unknown that forces us to grip tightly to the comforts of what we do know… the evil enemy of the power of change.  If only we took more leaps of faith, how far could we push ourselves to lead as educators, change-makers, and leaders?

 

Lisa Moberg

El Mirage, AZ

Adventure is my middle name. Although I have never sought it out, it somehow finds me, especially in teaching!! These past 16 years of my teaching career have been an exciting voyage in education, stretched between two different states, three school districts, and six grade levels (Kindergarten - 5th grade). After teaching in Washington State for six years, I moved to Arizona and have taught at a Title 1 school in the West Valley for ten years.

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  • Sandy Merz

    What a cool way to tell your story. It’s kind of crazy, but it reminded me of Tim O’brien who wrote about Vietnam through the objects in their packs. The book is The Things They Carried and is a super read. I’m mentally going through my cabinets and the like and can’t think of anything that’s been with me for my whole career. But my commute has been the same, so maybe I’d do something about road improvements, different vehicles I drove and the like.

  • Jaime Festa-Daigle

    I’m reflecting on what I have kept with me during my 16 years in education. My very first year I taught, I got engaged and married. I taught English to English Language Learners and had students from around the world. This was during the period of time where the Yugoslav Wars were being fought in Eastern Europe, there were a large number of Lost Boys and Girls coming over from Sudan, refugees were leaving the Middle East in large numbers, and there were a large number of students coming from Spanish speaking countries to Arizona. This was my dream job. Once I was engaged, I knew I would be leaving and moving to the rural community where my husband was from. I did not immediately tell my students this would be my first and last year with them. They surprised me with the most amazing wedding gifts. Many of which, I still have. I have cleaned out my classroom for an office, but I keep with me a wedding figurine with a letter to me from a boy named George from Iraq. Like your stapler, or any of the things we hold on to, the stories that could be told of ups and downs or tears and triumphs are what make educators come back each and every day.

  • Yolanda Wheelington

    This was a wonderful retelling of your story from a unique perspective. It caused me to reflect upon my journey and how I got to where I am today. I actually had a cup of coffee while reading it. It was a perfect moment!

  • Beth Maloney

    This is so beautiful, Lisa! It has been amazing for me to be part of your journey as a colleague, parent, and friend but I thoroughly enjoyed this “insider’s view” and the lessons that come from daily life in the classroom. Excellent perspective!

  • Eve Rifkin

    I love this. It’s amazing how moving a story told from the perspective of a stapler can be. As career educators, we change classrooms, grade levels, cities, and sometimes countries. And every time we do, we bring our full hearts with us (and our treasured staplers). Thank you!

  • Leah Clark

    I always think to myself, “If these walls could talk” as I walk into a classroom. What stories would they tell? How were the students that passed through these doors shaped, changed, developed and loved by a dedicated teacher such as yourself? I love that you tell your story through your trusty stapler. My students broke seven, yes seven, staplers last year. My husband bought me a new fancy one as a first day of school gift this year. I hope some day I have such a diverse and wonderful story as yours!