For a teacher on summer vacation, one of life’s luxuries is the chance to peruse school supply catalogs, which are conveniently designed to arrive at this time.   As gardeners relish the seed catalogs sent to them in the wintertime, teachers savor the school catalogs sent in summer, when they are far from the madding crowd and the profession seems grand and idyllic.

The "Yacker Tracker"

Teacher Wish Lists

     By the time the catalogs arrive, most teachers have been out of the classroom for a month or so.  It’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Already forgotten are the hassle of harried schedules, the chaos of failed lesson plans, and the bone weariness that accompanies the schoolhouse routine.  Sitting in the cool comfort of home on a bucolic summer day, a teacher’s attitude toward the profession is powerfully positive.  No matter what disasters might have occurred in the previous year, the slate has been wiped clean.  

     That’s one of the terrific things about being a teacher.  There’s always a chance to start again and, hopefully, do better.  Did you have weak lesson plans last year?  You can rewrite them this year.  Was discipline a problem?   This year you will post your rules the very first day of school and take lots of assertive measures.   Were last year’s students not your favorites?  Don’t worry.  You’ll have a whole new crop this year, and they undoubtedly will be little angels.  

     Yes, things are looking up all around.  The school supply catalogs perfectly complement this buoyant mood.  They are bright and breezy, sparkling with graphics and splashed with color, jauntily offering clever new tools and ideas certain to cast a golden glow over the coming year. There are slick new teacher packets, offering fresh ideas about how to make learning more exciting than ever for teachers and students alike.  According to the catalogs, practically any subject at any grade can be made “fun” simply by ordering the right worksheets, study guides, games or teaching kits.  Each new school year brings a fresh crop of posters.   Catalog editors contend that there’s no teaching problem that can’t be solved with a poster.  “WINNERS ARE NOT WHINERS” reads one.  Another declares, “GOALS DON’T WORK UNLESS YOU DO.”                         
     There’s new technology for teachers, too, including a device called the “Yacker Tracker.”  It is a scaled-down stop-and-go-light.  “Try this 16-inch self-monitoring, traffic light sound meter!” the advertisement reads.  The familiar bright yellow box with the round red, yellow and green lights is computerized with an adjustable sound level meter.  It quietly monitors the sound level in the classroom.  The green light stays lit until the noise goes above the set level.  Then a flashing yellow light warns students to quiet down.  If the noise level reaches 20 decibels above the set level, the red light flashes and a siren sounds.

     Some of the words most frequently uttered by teachers are “quiet down,”  “listen up” and “hush!“  Could it be that modern science has finally come up with a cure for the noisy classroom?  Here in the midst of summertime and the teacher’s “perfect” world, the “Yacker Tracker” offers hope.  Yes, it is the perfect solution.  

     In the real world, of course, there may be some doubt about its performance.  Most likely the students will be fascinated by the little stop-and-go-light mounted on the classroom wall. They will see it as a challenge.  They might make it a game to see how fast they can flash the red light and make the siren scream.  After the siren screams a few dozen times, it is likely that the teacher will scream and pull the plug.  By the middle of September, the “Yacker Tracker” will be resting on the floor of the classroom closet, next to a broken electric pencil sharpener and a Betamax tape entitled “Teaching Made Easy.”

   Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though.  The school bells will be ringing soon enough.  Until then, teachers can spend the lazy summer days drinking lemonade and thumbing through their catalogs, making their “wish lists” of red pens, jumbo paper clips, colored chalk, and, yes, let’s order that set of Shakespeare comic books and the “Jeopardy” game for American novels.  Come to think of it, that “Yacker Tracker” might work, after all.