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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Sharing with friends at sweettothesoul.com, purposefulfaith.com, Tell His Story, and holleygerth.com.

This entry was posted in Devotionals, Teaching and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

232 Responses to The Crayon Bucket

  1. Bonita says:

    That’s one of the most beautiful things I have read in a while! Keep up the good work! God bless you!

  2. Kaye says:

    Oh My Good Gravy! I needed this today! After a rough year last year, I’ve had a hard time getting over it through the summer. I feel like half a person, half a teacher and a broken one. Trying to wrap my head around a new school year and not having an easy time of it. Very near tears which is unusual for me! Thank you!

  3. Denise says:

    Broken crayons…broken lives…what an inspiring piece. Thank you for sharing. 🌺

  4. Mary says:

    So uplifting … thank you for sharing.

  5. Paige, I love this insight into kindergarten…and insight into how God needs our broken, forgotten selves! — (I teach at the other end of education…12th grade English.) So glad a friend shared this with me on FB.

  6. Ann Lancaster says:

    Wonderful way of relating people to crayons.

  7. Kelley says:

    Very inspiring!

  8. Chrissy says:

    Just beautiful and wonderfully profound! Loved this! Thank you so very much for sharing💚

  9. Ian says:

    “It’s job” should be “its job.” “It’s” is the contraction of “it is.” The possessive has no apostrophe.

  10. Gwen says:

    Yes I am ready to be used. Even with muscular dystrophy in my arms hands legs and feet and at age 59 I so desire to go to work and desperately need the income since my husband can no longer work. He has lymphoma and had open heart surgery six months ago and is just not well yet.

  11. Paula Felker says:

    TEACHERS TAKING CERTIFICATION RENEWAL CLASSES — First thing the college professor did — take out your new box of crayons! Take all the paper off each crayon! Now break each crayon into two pieces! Our first lesson was using sides-tips – pressures -and strokes with long and small pieces! He also told everyone that it was his fault if we didn’t enjoy ART! Everyone relaxed ( me as well) and experimented! This girl who loved music finally became a fair art teacher! He allowed us to be artistic and to not compare–just enjoy art differences! My fifth grade art teacher of long ago who criticized my art–her voice faded away! I had a new “YOU CAN DO IT VOICE” now at the age of 46! :*) He would have loved your Crayon bucket! Most kids and adults have a hard time breaking new crayons by the way!

  12. amy says:

    Thanks for your inspirational words..have a great year!

  13. Paula Felker says:

    TEACHERS TAKING CERTIFICATION RENEWAL CLASSES — First thing the college professor was take out your new box of crayons! Take all the paper off each crayon! Now break each crayon into two pieces! Our first lesson was using sides-tips – pressures -and strokes with long and small pieces! He also told everyone that it was his fault if we didn’t enjoy ART! Everyone relaxed ( me as well) and experimented! This girl who loved music finally became a fair art teacher! He allowed us to be artistic and to not compare–just enjoy art differences! My fifth grade art teacher of long ago who criticized my art–her voice faded away! I had a new “YOU CAN DO IT VOICE” now at the age of 46! :*) He would have loved your Crayon bucket! Most kids and adults have a hard time breaking new crayons by the way!

  14. Patricia Hall says:

    Powerful lesson that we all need to learn or learn again.

  15. Debbie Linton says:

    What an awesome story! And one I’m sure God put right in my sight this very morning!! It was shared by a friend of mine on fb. I just said goodbye and sent my son off to his first day of his high school senior year! He is my only child, and a true miracle! I wasn’t supposed to have children, but I prayed and yearned for one healthy child, and lo and behold, Hunter has been a true Gift from God! I have treasured him every moment of his life, but in the process, I became “Hunter’s Mom”, and “Debbie” got lost! Yep! You nailed it! I am feeling broken and forgotten! But I know that I am still God’s child and He “will never leave me nor forsake me.”
    What an exciting new chapter of life for all of us! I can’t wait to see what God will do! I AM “ready to be used!!” Thank you for your story!!

    • Paige Givens says:

      Wow Debbie! That’s awesome. You are ready to be used!

    • Corbi Van Wagoner says:

      From one “broken teacher to a lost and forgotten mother”, we are in this together. We can find strength in numbers. I’m working on finding me in helping others. I still feel lost, but am finding a new path in life.

  16. Rae says:

    Ah, love the the message ❤ I have a crayon bucket as well! We take those way too tiny pieces and on the last week of school we melt them in a disposable cupcake tin on an old electric griddle (now splattered with melted crayon graffiti) to make crazy crayons for the kiddos to take home as a memory. I saw someone once call these missing crayolas "leftolas." 🙂

  17. Sheila says:

    Wow……..like Kaye, I also had a horrible year last year, and have spent my summer dreading this next year. She was almost in tears – well, I’m having difficulty typing because of the tears….such a beautiful and spot-on analogy…one that I’ll be visiting repeatedly I’m sure! Thank you for your post!

  18. Mels says:

    That was awesome! You have such a way with words. Thank you for inspiring me not to throw the broken crayons away.

  19. Alexandria says:

    This is very powerful…thankyou for sharing…

  20. Kathy says:

    Wonderful post. ❤️

  21. Tina says:

    I really enjoyed reading this… it was very educational .. thanks for sharing

  22. Sara Warren says:

    Paige you just blessed my socks off! I will be using this for my class. Thank you!!!

  23. Sara Newvine says:

    Thank you for this beautiful story. I found it very inspiring. I am in school now to become a teacher, and this is just the sort of thing I love to read. It helps me through this tough time, and reminds me of the light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually I will be done with school, and can move on to what I love most: working with children!

  24. Madeleine says:

    I don’t know what I expected when I opened this blog, but it sucker punched me right in the gut! Now, I’m crying in my oatmeal! Thanks!😊 It was beautifully written. A simple analogy, and yet just so deep! I’m going to ruminate on this for the rest of the day!

  25. Beth says:

    This literally made me cry. Thank you for your encouragement, your gentle reminder that God is always holding me in the palm of His hand…in this crazy world, I am not forgotten. In the world’s eyes I may not measure up, but in His eyes, I am perfect. God bless!

  26. Tina Praetorius says:

    What a special gift you have from God. To be able to teach and love children with such understanding and compassion is a true gift. We need more teachers like you. Thank you for not only sharing a beautiful story, but giving me a challenge to do more! Many Blessing to you!

  27. megamomof10 says:

    As I began to read this beautiful piece, I had these thoughts swirling around in my head about how much I can relate to those broken crayons. You see; I am ‘nobody’s girl’. I was given to a family to raise but not adopted (not their fault) and I have no way to find out anything about my medical history or biological family.
    Then after having 3 children, my husband and I became foster parents and THAT blossomed into becoming adoptive parents. We now have 10 children; 7 of them adopted. Abused, broken (literally), and scarred for life. But we get to hold them in our hearts and hands and we are working furiously to make beautiful things…

  28. usmbiagini says:

    Wow! Wonderful! I NEEDED this right now and I can’t wait to start my own crayon bucket. No more throwing them in the trash can. They will be needed – and a wonderful message will be shared.

  29. kellilmoore says:

    I’m just gonna save this to read again and again. As a third grade teacher, not only do I have a new plan for crayons, I have a new view on each kid, and on myself. What a blessing this was. Thank you so very much.

  30. Verna Black says:

    What an inspiring story!!! I am not a teacher, but you have touched this ninety year old heart today.. Obviously, you have touched many hearts. May each teacher be blessed with the wisdom to make a difference.

  31. Kim Todd says:

    Thank you, Paige! As a veteran teacher heading into my 25th year in education…THIS is exactly what I needed to take on what many have dubbed a very challenging group of second graders. I’m feeling a bit worn out and not quite sufficient to take this challenge on…perhaps this is my wake up call that God’s just readying me to be used…I still have a few weeks to renew my spirit and prepare my heart…this will get me there.

  32. Hildred Anderson says:

    Amanda, it is a pleasure to see you apply all these wonderful things you are learning to your child rearing. No wonder your kids are turning out so well. Love, Grandma

  33. Ethel Shepherd says:

    Ethel Shepherd……this is probably the most tear jerker, thought proverken article I have ever heard. It really brought to mind some broken ‘crayons’ I have seen in my years as a teacher aide. Wish I had read this years ago. Thank you whoever….

  34. Dannes says:

    What a blessing! As a retired teacher I related to the message on so many different levels. Thank you.

  35. Luanne cox says:

    As a retired teacher I did the same thing. Another thing was at the end of the year students would donate their old crayons to the crayon bucket for next year’s class, just in case they needed a crayon. So it became a tridition to donate for the next year. We also talked a lot about recycling and reusing and this fed right into that. Loved your story!

  36. Tanya Bishop says:

    Such a beautiful story! ❤️❤️❤️

  37. Darlene Littlefield says:

    I don’t typically write replies to things like this, but I loved this. I am sure you’re a wonderful kindergarten teacher. We all can become broken or lost until we are able to find our purpose again to be used for good by someone who needs us. Hope you have a great year.

  38. Jeanne Killough says:

    I absolutely love this story and the applications that it lends itself to. Thank you for the wisdom you’ve imparted to so many others.
    I’d love to print this and share it with your permission. The problem is that I don’t know if it’s possible to print it. Could you let me know?
    God bless you abundantly,
    Jeanne Killough

  39. Kitty Adkins says:

    Your story is heartwarming and so familiar. I, too, worked with young children- for 34 years until I had one of those horrible years. When our principal passed out contracts in May for the next school year I realized I just couldn’t do it any more. I took early retirement which meant I’ve had to do 20 days of substituting or screening 3 year olds who are applying to come to pre-school the next year. It’s been fun being able to just work with the children and not have to worry about lesson plans, end of year testing, etc., etc.! But my seven years are officially up now. I will miss seeing the teachers and being with the children and definitely that bonus check at the end of the month. The children in our classes were all selected because they were in danger of not doing well in kindergarten so your broken crayon story was right on point. Thank you for sharing!

  40. Amy says:

    I loved this. How can I encourage 7 middle school teachers to feel the same way? This was beautiful.

  41. Caryn Jones says:

    This was a beautiful story.

  42. Karen Cate says:

    What a beautiful story and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I hope you have many more fulfilling years teaching. Thank you.

  43. terisasue04 says:

    I love this post. Can I share your story on my blog sometime?

  44. Dani says:

    Very nicely written piece! As a PE teacher, I applaud you for allowing your students to get up and walk to the crayon bucket. Please never under-estimate the power of exercise and brain breaks to keep your student’s brains awake and ready to learn. As a mother, I applaud using the small crayons to help kids work on strengthening their fine motor skills and it also helps children who need extra proprioceptive feedback to help them stay focused.

  45. skg917 says:

    Reblogged this on skg917.

  46. Pingback: The Crayon Bucket | skg917

  47. S. Lucy says:

    Thank you for this! I needed to read this!

  48. Lindsay Cannon says:

    This is awesome. I will practice this in my classroom this year.

  49. Michelle says:

    Absolutely beautiful! Last year happened to be my first year, and to some teachers, I had the most tough class. I would leave in tears some days. By the end of the year I had my students crying, stating they didn’t want to leave me. God uses us in different ways, some we may not understand and are frustrated thinking he’s not listening. He heard my prayers and now I’m at a new school teaching 5th grade! I prayed and asked him to put me where I belong. Looking at my new class list, I can see why he put me at this new school and a new grade. Thank you for sharing your story!

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