Saturday, December 4, 2010

Teaching tip #324

Anyone who teaches knows that on any given day, someone is going to forget something. Homework, pencils, and notebooks lead errant lives--they spend as much time in class as the student, just not simultaneously.

My biggest daily battles used to involve pencils. Not anymore.

Asking a child why she forgot her pencil is as illuminating as asking her to describe muons. But I'd ask anyway.

Telling a child that bringing a pencil to class is her responsibility is like telling her her eyes are brown. She knows this, and reminding her will not change much, but it will elicit an eyeroll. I don't like eyerolls, but I asked anyway.

When I was about 7 years old, I stuck a pair of scissors in an electric socket. I didn't like it. I did it again anyway. I didn't like it any better the second time. I stopped doing it.

Every day I wasted a minute or two having the same conversation. Who's the idiot now?

The solution?

I tacked a Dixie cup to the bulletin board. When I find a pen or pencil, I put it in the cup. On rare occasions, I drop a few brand new pencils in the kitty. The cup's contents ebb and flow like the tides--rarely does it need my intervention.

The kids are no more or less responsible than before I reached my pencil nirvana.

We got enough nonsense going on in the classroom. Pick your battles.

Pencils are a lot cheaper than anxiolytics.

Pencil pic from wikimedia, and is in the PD.


Kate said...

I have a pencil cup, too. I teach in the Middle School where I don't have to buy pencils, I harvest them from the floor of my room. I also have a basket with inexpensive pens that I purchased at the beginning of the year. Lots of pens, still - and the pencils do ebb and flow.

doyle said...

Dear Kate,

Shhhh...I harvest some, too. I don't want to give up my sekrit source.

Anonymous said...

The first quarter I am helpful with pencils. The second quarter they are on their own. Our school has incentive dollars where if they don't have a pencil they have to buy one. After the second quarter, when someone tells me that they don't have a pencil or they need a pencil, I say, "Oh well!" Someone in class either shares or that student can't do their work for the day, and the weight of a zero is a nice reminder.

I also got rid of the pencil sharpener on the wall. Students have no reason to ask to sharpen the pencil. We did like a two week countdown until the day the pencil sharpener disappeared. The kids either have to have multiple sharpened pencils before they get to me or use a pen or bring their own sharpener.

It's amazing. No one asks me for something to write with at all anymore, and no one asks to get up to sharpen a pencil either.

doyle said...

Dear Underground Teacher,

"The weight of a zero" probably means more to me than any student, and it means bupkis to me.

Not being able to do the work for a day, however, when a simple cheap solution exists is just silly.

Yes, I know, I know, personal responsibility, preparing for life, etc., but until teachers stop scrambling for pens during meetings and such, I'm willing to risk the future anarchy of America for a pencil.

I'm one of those enabling types--we even have a pencil sharpener in our room.