|Antique pencil vending machine, via Showtime Auction Services|
Everyone, everyone, knows the rule--bring a "writing utensil" to class. There are some variations--some teachers require certain types (the ol' Number Two vs. the I said black ink ballpoint pen)--but all have the same basic idea. Bring your tool.
I worked on the docks a long time ago. I worked hard, and I mostly enjoyed it, except when a boss got up my butt. The simplest way to slow down a job was drop a tool into the drink, which meant getting off the barge and retrieving another one, which meant 10" of sauntering. For a few moments, I had control.
I teach high school students--they know the rule. So what do you do with a child sitting with empty hands as class starts? First let's look at a few things that don't work.
Do not ask a child if she has a pencil--either she doesn't, which is pretty obvious, or she does and is keeping it hidden, and she's got other issues that need addressing, but not during class.* Just asking the question wastes time.
Do not ask a child if she knows the rules. She does. The whole freaking world does.But you go ahead and waste time explaining the rule anyway, which only makes you look ridiculous.
Here are the usual solutions, which all stink for various reasons:
Points off class participation:
If a child deliberately refuses to carry a pencil, well then, you'll show her!
Stop for a moment and think about your logic--you're engaging in her battle, and docking points for a behavioral issue, not good. If a child simply forgot, you're docking points for an action that has not been cured by 10 years of formal public schooling--not likely you will affect any real changes.
Next time a colleague bums a pen off you, sneer at him. See how far that goes.
Giving the child a half-chewed used pencil with no eraser/stubby golf pencil/My-Little-Pony-style pencil:
Har, that's hilarious! Works even better with a loud announcement to the class about how this is the third time this year that Lynnea gets to use whatever crippled version of a pencil you're handing out.
Humiliation and blatant reminders of who has the power always works with mid-adolescent children so charged up with estrogen and testosterone they make the bulls of Pamplona look like kittens, no?
You can watch the other kids focus on Lynnea as she saunters into class again without a pencil. It's showtime! And you're the clown. The kids know this even if you don't.
Giving the speech:
"In the real world... blahblahblah.... responsibility..... blahblumblah... unemployment.... blahbityblap ...starvation...."
Eyes roll, class time is lost, and now you've elevated this into a crisis worthy of the International Criminal Court.** Pencil-less children ultimately end up prone drooling in city gutters, and our economy goes to pot. Just ask Arne Duncan...
I tack a red Solo cup on my bulletin board stocked with a few freshly sharpened spanking new pencils. If you need one, take one. Put it back when you're done. And yes, a few kids forget, because that's what some do--but even they eventually put one or two back.
The cost? Maybe 3 pencils a day, less than half a cup of coffee.
The return? Fewer battles, more trust, and (dare I say it?) a happier classroom.
*I am not talking about major issues, which, of course, should always be dealt with immediately. Latest spat with BF usually doesn't count.
**Yep, too far over the top...which is, of course, the point.