“Do you need anything?” I ask.
Georgia isn’t shy about telling me what she needs. She shouldn’t be. If she is, her kids at Rothenberg Academy in Over The Rhine go without. This spring, she’ll retire after 40 years with Cincinnati Public Schools. I worry for the person who fills her shoes. I hope they don’t drown in all that space.
A young girl pops her head into the room where Georgia, our PTO President Angie and I talk. “Ms. Keith?” It’s one of many interruptions during our visit. Georgia’s a busy woman with too much to do and not enough hours to do it.
“In a minute,” she says. “I’ll be there in a minute.”
Turning her attention back to me, she considers my question. “Pencils,” she answers. “We need, let’s see,” she counts in her head, “800 pencils.”
She explains that the pencils will be used for standardized testing scheduled for spring. “I’ll be gone,” Georgia explains. “But I’m getting everything ready.”
Georgia wants each student to have two pencils. This seems completely reasonable to me. Living in a school district where kids leave expensive name brand coats unclaimed without a care, our students can’t fathom not having the basics.
“I’ll sharpen them,” she says and points to one electric pencil sharpener plugged in on her desk. “Just bring them to me.”
Oh no you won’t, I think. I’m not going to be the one who adds one more thing to your list.
I purchase the pencils and the boys and I take turns on the old-school sharpener in our first floor laundry room. Every twenty or so pencils, we empty the shavings and shake the numbness from our thumb.
“How many left?” I. asks.
I don’t want to tell him hundreds. “Just keep sharpening,” I say instead. “Just keep sharpening.”