It comes up at least a few times a day, usually when I'm in the middle of something very important. "What do we see in this picture?" I'll ask. "Mister," one girl will nearly scream, "my lápiz!" The pencils the kids find on the floor of the hallway in the moments before class don't require much pressure before they break. What comes next is usually enough to stall my lesson plan for a good three or four minutes.
"¿Carlos, tienes un sacapuntas?" He'll shake his head, as will all of the other students in her vicinity. She'll get up and start asking students in other parts of the room. I'll inevitably try to continue the lesson until I accept its futility.
"Serafina, can you use a pen?" I'll ask. "Mister, how can I erase with pen? Don't you have a sharpener?" she'll respond. I'll shake my head no, thinking of the many things that have been stolen out of my desk this year. My sacaputnas left with more than one grapadora months ago. I've been slowly transferring all of my stuff into a filing cabinet that I can lock, but the transition hasn't been happening quickly enough. I'm lucky the kids don't care to steal my books.
"Mister, I need to go to the office for sharpen," Serafina will declare. Usually, I'll scramble for some alternative solution, mostly because I'm in denial that I work in an environment in which leaving class is the only viable solution for a broken pencil. I'll duplicate Serafina's work in asking her classmates, once more, if anyone has a sharpener. They'll open their bags to demonstrate they have neither a sharpener nor a pencil to borrow. Some of them probably do, but don't want it stolen. "How about...." I'll begin, but Serafina will interrupt. "¡Mister, I need sacapuntation!" Her Spanglish will make us all giggle, and in the absurdity of the moment, with a sad smile on my face, I'll say, "Okay, Serafina, but please make it quick."