I always take along a bunch of sharpened pencils when I substitute teach. I don’t want a kid sitting there doing nothing because they don’t have something to write with, and you would be surprised how many teachers don’t provide any sort of writing implement, and how many don’t have a functioning pencil sharpener in their room.

For some reason kids are really affected by this*. My motto has somehow become “I always have pencils” and I will often have kids come up to me in the hallway and ask me for a pencil because they’ve lost theirs and I, after all, always have pencils. Until this month, that is.

Last year I started the year by buying a box of 24 pencils**. I kept replenishing them as I gave them away, and as the box became tattered, I just repaired it with transparent tape. When this year started, I upgraded to a blue pencil pouch that I bought at the dollar store.***

Somehow, that disappeared over the winter break. I searched through my car, I talked to all the teachers I covered for that final week, and I even tore my apartment apart (since I was doing that anyway), but it’s just nowhere to be found.

So I went back to the dollar store and bought another pencil pouch (blue this time), filled it with pencils, and left it on my dining room table. In the packing process, I found a very nice computer bag in the bag of my closet and since it had so much more room, I decided to use that for substitute teaching. (It also has a shoulder strap that makes it easier to carry everything.) I filled it with all my supplies, including, I thought, the pencil bag.

So I got to school the other day, and sure enough, first hour someone asked me for a pencil. I tore through that entire bag and couldn’t find the pencil pouch. During my planning period I went out to the parking lot and tore my car apart, but it wasn’t there. I got home and tore my apartment apart (again!) but it wasn’t there.

I usually don’t lose things like this, so this is very weird. The only thing I can think of is that aliens are stealing my pencils.

*I have been asked more than once if I have to do this, like it’s a job requirement or something. A lot of kids are very grateful when I give them a pencil, like I’m going out of my way to do it, but seriously, I just want them to get their homework done.

**By my own estimate, I went through close to 300 pencils last year. Thank goodness for dollar store pencils. At ten or even a dozen for a buck, five dollars buys a lot of dinosaur pencils. And because they’re cheap, the manufacturers put less clay in them and they actually write really smoothly. I love them.

***I know, everything here is made in China. I could go to the big box store and buy a name brand pencil pouch for eight or nine dollars, but they’re made in China as well.

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