Today in first grade, I made the unusual exception to let the children color with markers. It seemed a simple enough indulgence: just decorate the history mapping exercise with a little color. As a high school teacher subbing in the first grade, I never could have imagined the chaos that could ensue over 6-year-olds using markers.

Every child invariably wants to borrow a color that somebody else has. There are not enough flesh-colored markers to go around. A few lucky children have scented markers, thereby prompting lines of interested classmates, standing around their desks sniffing reds and blues and oohing over the smells. Markers are rolling off desks and under people’s chairs, so the children are scrambling and crawling and reaching and knocking off more markers in the process.

And then a tattle-tale from the adjacent bathroom: “Elliot’s washing his markers in the sink!”

What? Why?

I go to the bathroom with the cute little sink and potty. Sure enough, Elliot’s got the markers under running water.

He explains, “It says they’re washable.”

“They’re  washable because if you get them on your clothes, your mom can wash it out. You’re not supposed to wash the markers.”

The kids go back to coloring. I look up from my desk to see a contingency of fairly quiet children, crowded in the bathroom. Elliot is  the center of attention. This can’t be good.

“Elliot? Please tell me you’re not drawing on yourself.”

But yes, he is. As I approach the scene of the crime, I can see green marker all over his white shirt, his hands, the sink, and a lot of paper towels.

“I’m seeing if it washes out.”

Of course you are. This is why real first grade teachers don’t let you use markers.

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