Etch-A-Sketch

Will Caston Cook, 27th August 2019

"So, what did you do over the summer?"


That will be the question that is asked of you during the INSET day when you get back in for the new academic year. You may also ask your students the same question too – it could even form the first activity that you ask them to do, after all, it would make a lovely early display!

Will you be the one that adds the vacation to the conversation, or are you the one that will contribute your trials and tribulations from your staycation (a portmanteau that has in recent years become part of our vocabulary)?

Those of you with children may also have had the challenge of keeping them occupied and the cinemas know this and offer the latest blockbuster to lure you to spend your hard-earned money on popcorn and a few seats!

One film that has vied for this title this Summer is Toy Story 4 – the continuing adventures of Woody and Buzz – that have revolutionised animation since 1995! It is a clever combination where children are enamoured by the story whilst the adults are inwardly saying "I had one of those when I was a kid" at the same time!

Did you have a Mr Potato Head? (that, before legislation in the 1960s, had parts with such sharp ends that they were capable of puncturing vegetables easily)!

Did you have an Evel Knievel? (that, in 1972, promoted itself with adverts promising "Gyro power, sending him over 100ft at top speed…).

Or, did you have an Etch o Sketch? (the grey surface of which is coated with aluminium powder).

All appear in the Toy Story films, but it is the latter toy that I would like to draw your attention to, as it is one of these toys NOT in the 4th iteration of the films. (Indeed, it was only in a flashback scene in the third). However, I remember giggling at the scene that goes as follows...

"Hey, Etch. Draw!" (Etch draws a gun at a rapid pace and makes a ding)

"Oh! Got me again. Etch, you've been working on that draw”.

Simple, yes. Funny, yes, and that is the beauty of these films and the reason why the film has been a box-office phenomenon and the Etch-a-Sketch has sold over 100 million units!

Can you remember how to erase your picture of a gun, or other masterpiece that you created out of vertical and horizontal lines (I never did master the diagonal!)?

That’s right, you turn the toy upside down and shake it (which causes polystyrene beads to smooth out and re-coat the inside surface of the screen).

In a similar way, I hope that the Summer holidays has enabled you to shake yourself "clean", to allow you to feel refreshed and ready to draw a new picture that will be entitled as "Academic Year 2019-2020".

That initial grey morass, set within its red plastic frame, is daunting at the beginning but just get started, draw that first line, make that first mark. Find out about your class and let them find out about you. Respect them and their interests and they will reciprocate. Have fun moments too, you are allowed to smile before Christmas after all!

I said that I never had mastered the diagonal line on an Etch-a-sketch, but maybe I should be saying that I haven’t managed it... yet! Maybe this year, maybe this is my moment to try something new, to master a new skill, to develop my practice. If you are stuck at a rectangle then try a cube. Or, maybe you have already reached the skill level of, Jeff Gagliardi, whose website is full of rather impressive Etch-A-Sketches!

Either way, see this new academic year as an opportunity. A chance to do something new. As Buzz Lightyear himself once said... "To Infinity and beyond"!




David is the author of “Lift! Going up if teaching gets you down” which looks at teacher wellbeing, offering practical advice from his experience as a headteacher and education consultant. He is also the architect of the VbE (Values based Education) resilience survey, which has been developed with Pupil Asset.

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