When I was in California for my sister’s wedding she gave me, among other gifts, a set of pencils with quotes from The Big Lebowski written on them. I brought one of the pencils to school with me and, by the end of the day, couldn’t find it anymore. It’s not unusual for the students to, magpie-like, purloin items belonging to other students which catch their eye. Knowing this, I assumed that one of the students had taken the pencil (deliberately or accidentally.) Not having any evidence as to who the culprit might be, I simply made a blanket announcement at the start of each period to the effect that I had lost a gift which had sentimental value to me and I would be very grateful to anyone who would return it to me. I didn’t have much hope in the effect this would produce but I figured it was worth a try.
I was very pleasantly surprised when I walked into the classroom after lunch today and two of the students triumphantly displayed to me the pencil which they had found tucked away in some corner of the teacher’s desk. They were proud to have found it and glad to return it to me. The reason the student had been hunting for a pencil, though, was that he didn’t have one of his own. Having returned mine to me he was still pencil-less. My cooperating teacher said, “Well, just use that one and make sure you give it back to Ms. Cain at the end of the period.” The student, though, said: “No, this one’s really important to her, I want to give it back to her now.”
That may not seem like much, but 7th graders seem to rarely consider others’ feelings before their own. And, especially, with the case of something so seemingly insignificant as a pencil, I didn’t expect them to empathize much with my disappointment at having lost it. That one little comment of his made me very happy.
And now my Lebowski pencil set is once again complete. If you’re curious, the quote on the one that was lost was “Calmer than you are.” If you’re a fan of the movie, I’m sure you remember the line and probably just said it to yourself in your best Walter Sobcheck impression.
Thank you, anonymous 7th grader, you brightened my day.