I love writing – not just selecting the words to say, but the physical act of doing it. Keyboards don’t have quite the same thrill as making marks on a surface. Apart from typewriter keyboards – I love bashing my digits down on the keys then slamming the carriage across at the end of the line, and making the little bell ring!
But in July I found something which really brought back memories. I was sorting out some old crayons, and there in the box was a white chinagraph pencil. Did you ever have one of those [or are you too young for such old-school equipment?]
Before the days of whiteboards, and dry-wipe markers, these were the tools we used to write on hard surfaces - especially glass or china [hence the name] but it was not indelible – and detergent plus elbow grease erased our scribblings.
So I wrote on the mirror in the hall “I have found my chinagraph pencil” and then I decided to see how long lasting the waxy words would be. I went outside, and carefully wrote a message backwards on the window of Bob’s study. That way he would be able to read it when he sat down at his desk.
I have to report that twelve weeks later, the words are still there! [We don’t clean our windows very often] That’s despite heavy rain of Biblical proportions in recent days. I wonder if words from a marker pen would have lasted that long?
I confess that I am not enamoured of the current use of whiteboards and drywipe pens in school.
I can see that it is useful in a phonics lesson to ask the 25 children sitting cross-legged on the carpet to write a word on their board and hold it up so you can check they've spelt it right. But
- they will erase it using their sleeve or finger [black marks everywhere]
- their sitting position doesn’t make for neat writing
- gripping those chunky pens in little fingers doesn’t help good handwriting either
- there is no sense of permanence about their work
- teaching assistants seem to spend ages at the photocopier, copying the best work from the whiteboards so there is a permanent paper record of the little darlings’ ‘good sentences’
- the tops do not go back onto the pens properly, so the pens dry out, and every lesson starts with checking who has not got a working pen!
Is there anyone else out there who still has a chinagraph pencil – and if so, where do you use it? and what do you write?