The Crayon Bucket

In my classroom, we have this bucket. We call it the crayon bucket. Its job is to hold two kinds of crayons: the broken ones and the forgotten ones.

When I started teaching it didn’t take me long to figure out that crayons are hard for five-year-olds to keep up with. Like… I found it out within thirty minutes!!! 🙂

We started out that first day and everyone had a brand new pack of shiny, beautiful, pointy crayons (by the way, I quickly learned that you don’t give a class full of kindergarteners an entire pack of crayons on day one…teaching 101). Now I do a crayon a day.  As we learn each color, if we treat our first crayon nicely, we get to keep it and eventually get more, but anyway, that’s another story!

So, after thirty minutes on that first day of school, I had a floor full of random crayons. And that bothered me! All during the school year, I would find crayons in the floor and I would hold them up and no one would claim them, even when they looked through their pouches. Even the kid with only two crayons in his pouch would be like, “No man, that’s not mine…” Hence, he always only had two crayons in his pouch. 🙂

So I started setting the lost crayons on my desk. But soon there were too many for my desk. And during my first year of teaching I had so many overwhelming roles to learn that even though I was bothered by these forgotten crayons, I didn’t have the time or energy to think of a solution for them. I got a cup, and they quickly filled up the cup. Then I got a basket, and they began to fill up the basket.

And then another thing started to happen all those years ago that really bothered me… when we went to do a special art activity, I’d say something like, “Get out your red…” and immediately several people would chorus “I don’t have a red!”–especially two crayon guy…he never had anything.

One day the light clicked on for me. The crayon basket, of course! It had all the reds we needed! I started a new procedure that has been tried and true since that first year I started teaching. We have the lost crayon basket for when someone is missing a color. The rule is if we are missing a color, we don’t yell out. We just go to the crayon basket and pick out what we need, and the best part of all is… we get to keep it! And do you know that the child who was so forgetful with her crayons earlier takes that “new” red one from the basket, uses it carefully, and then  puts it in her pouch and is sure to zip up her pouch this time so that she doesn’t lose it?

The rule at the crayon basket is that we can only stay there for five seconds, because we are guaranteed to find the needed color in five seconds. You know why? Because after fifteen years, this is my lost crayon basket bucket. It’s full of every color we would ever need!

I'm sure you think I shot the CapriSun beside the bucket for your viewing pleasure! Actually, that's just to let you know how big the bucket is. :) I’m sure you think I shot the CapriSun beside the bucket for your viewing pleasure. Actually, that’s just to let you know how big the bucket is. 🙂

A lot of crayons get forgotten. Until they are needed. And if a child has forgotten a blue crayon, when the teacher says to get a blue, the crayon becomes very important to the child, and it’s no longer forgotten. Especially when the child knows they get to keep the blue. It’s a treasure to them now, and they are glad to keep it.

The great things about the crayons in my class’s crayon  bucket is that they don’t stay forgotten. They sit in the bucket, ready for the time when someone needs their exact use. And then it’s their time to shine! They become very important to the ones who need them.

There’s another kind of crayon in the bucket…and that’s the broken crayon. Now, broken crayons are the most special ones of all! They may not be as pretty as the new ones; they may be missing their paper, their shine, their points, but they have a very special job.

You see, we have a lot of students coming to public school these days with certain learning, physical, and emotional needs. For a number of  reasons, they don’t have the fine motor abilities to color and cut and write like what society expects for a “typical” kindergartner. Some of them have never even held a crayon, so it’s hard for them to learn how to fill a picture with color. I remember the first time I had a student with a physical need that required more practice than what I was providing in the general setting. The wonderful occupational therapist for the county came in and looked over his workspace to help me and give me pointers on supporting him with writing, coloring, and other fine motor skills. And guess what she did first?

She took his brand new crayons and BROKE them. And I was horrified! One by one, as she was just talking to me, she just stood there breaking away, and I could only look on in horror! Finally, I found some words in my head and yelled “What are you doing?!?” And our awesome therapist said words that have stuck with me…she kept on breaking and she said, “Paige, broken crayons make weak hands strong.”

Broken crayons make weak hands strong.

Kids who can’t hold a pencil can grip a broken crayon. They have to bear down and hold it tightly with correct finger positioning when their crayon is broken.
And I have also learned that kids who need emotional and behavioral support love to use broken crayons. They can bear down and push and scribble and make really strong marks with broken crayons without fear of getting in trouble for tearing up something new.

I know that  some people reading this today feel like an old broken or forgotten crayon. You may be broken down by physical health problems or relationship issues. Or you may be chipped away by little things of life every day…a cruel word chips here, a busy schedule nicks there, until one day you look in the mirror and you are only half of the person that you thought you were.

I have great news for you, friends.

You are needed. God has an area of your life designed just for you. There is a need around you, and you are the perfect person to fill that void. There may be “weak hands” in your circle, or even outside of your comfort zone, and your brokenness might be exactly what those hands need to hold on tightly to in order to become strong. And if you feel forgotten? I can tell you with certainty that He did not forget you. You are never out of His sight, and He has something great in store for you! Here is what He says to His people in Isaiah 49:15-16 (NIV):

I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

You are not forgotten. You may feel that way, and feeling that way is hard–sometimes awful–but our human feelings are very fickle. They change with our circumstances like a tree sways in the wind. God’s word never changes, though, and He says that we are not forgotten.

You know those crayons in the lost and found bucket? They’re really not forgotten, either. They are just waiting for their time to be used. Are you ready to be used?


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232 Responses to The Crayon Bucket

  1. Karen says:

    This is so beautifully put. Thank you to the people who can put their thought to paper like this!

  2. Delores Bialorucki says:

    This brought tears for so many reasons. You are a wise educator and those young people who are blessed to have contact with you are very blessed. You deserve each penny you earn and many more

  3. Winnie Head says:

    A beautiful, amazing story. I was a teacher for many years. This is such a creative idea and so true. I am now many years older, birthday Aug 1, and still miss my teaching years. I am broken, on a scooter most of my waking hours, speech impaired, but God does have purpose for brokenness.God bless you for being a wonderful, creative teacher!

  4. Jane McGilvray says:

    Thank you. Your words uplifting and a great reminder.

  5. Bev McEldowney says:

    Love this! I can tell you have been in the classroom.

  6. Rebecca Steinberger says:

    Thank you for these words of wisdom! I am an elementary school janitor and i too find many crayons on the floors of classrooms.Now I know what to do with them. Your students are blessed to have you as their teacher. Thank you for teaching and sharing your wisdom.

    • Paige Givens says:

      Thank you Rebecca!!!!! You are a teacher’s best friend! We don’t know what we’d do without our custodians. You get there before us and often leave after us. Thank you for your service to your community!!!!!!

  7. Jackie Looper says:

    Jackie Looper: When I started teaching at Holly Springs many years ago, I had a crayon box that was kept in the back closet. It worked similar to your crayon basket. One day I found some snuff boxes in the crayon box after school when I was straightening up in the classroom. You won’t believe what I did. No other teacher would have had the nerve. I emptied the snuff into the trash can, took the empty snuff can home and filled it up with pure cocoa. Those boys were in for a great surprise when the next day when we left the classroom to go down to the playground. I stayed outside the classroom door and waited. They were about to choke to death. They wanted a drink of water in the hallway. I told them “no water yet”. When we traveled down the hill where there was a water fountain, I allowed them to get water and spit our the bitter cocoa. Those little “gents” never brought any more snuff to school ever again. Poor little things! And they never forgot that incident to this day !

  8. Merry says:

    We need more Teachers like you to step up to do what it takes to help those children with leaning disableties wish every teacher had your ability to look at what ever that child needs thank you for being that teacher with compassion

  9. Christine Lebrane says:

    Thank you sometimes we need to know even the broken is still beautiful! I loved the story and will use it for the homework lab!

  10. Sheila Smith says:

    I love this story and it’s inspiration. There is beauty in broken things when we see their true value. God definitely saw through our brokenness and made a way for us to shine as His children through faith the precious blood of Jesus,His beloved Son.

  11. Jeanne says:

    I had a student who broke all his crayons. One day I asked him why – beloved to hear the sound of the crayon cracking.

  12. Margaret says:

    This is absolutely awesome! I have taught and Directed a Christian Kindergarten for 41 years! I so understand the crayons! I have a plastic box full! This story warmed my heart and I wish to share it! Thank you

  13. Terry Anderson says:

    Wonderfully written. A long paragraph, but lovely and appreciated.

  14. seahorseowl says:

    I had read this before and searched for it again. It is such a great way to teach sooo many things. It also shows appreciation, every year we pack up new school supplies and don’t think twice but not everyone has that luxury so by making these crayons accessible you also help kids with inclusion. It makes them realize we all have imperfections but we are needed. Thanks angina for such a wonderful idea in so many ways. 🙂

  15. chrissy says:

    I love this. Great post. 😁

  16. This is such a beautiful story and so lovely to hear from a teacher, who understands how much these things matter.

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