Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pencil Issue

In Be kind from Blue Skunk Blog, Doug Johnson shares this,

one of the best posts I've read for a long time is Give the kid a pencil by Chad Donohue on the Teaching Tolerance blog. He writes about a grad class discussing: "If a student shows up to class without a pencil, how should the teacher respond?"”

This happened a lot in my classroom and I saw that a lot of students used it as an excuse. It was a good excuse not to do work so they wouldn’t have to: exert energy, try, risk failure, or even risk showing that they struggle.

This was not an option in my classroom.

I have plenty of pencils. Some I bought, some were given free at conferences, and many were collected at the end of the year from clutter left behind in lockers. There were plenty of pencils available for students to use.

But it wasn’t given to them without some kind of responsibility or thought. I would keep a record of each time they borrowed a pencil and this record could be used at later parent conferences. It also worked great for helping students create personal goals and try to reduce the number of times they came unprepared. Sometimes I would have a conference with the student to show that it was a problem and talk about possible solutions. Just by showing that I cared enough to keep a record, helped the student come better prepared.

I also made it a little inconvenient to borrow a pencil. Nothing in life is free and they learned this in my class. In order to borrow a pencil, they had to give me something they valued as collateral. They couldn’t give me something that they didn’t care about. This also ensured that I would get the pencil (or a pencil) back even if it was just a stub. At the beginning of the year, I also share this with the parents so they know that I am going to do whatever it takes to help their child succeed and they usually support me in this. I have held cell phones, car keys, wallets, student IDs, and even a shoe if needed. If a student refuses to give me collateral, we call the parent immediately and I ask the parent to come to school with a pencil for their child to use. After a short conversation over the phone, the student usually agrees to borrow a pencil instead.  Many of the students do not like being separated from these items and after one or two times, usually have a pencil for class.

How do you handle a student who comes to class without a pencil? Please share.

Image: 'Amboy Pharmacy, Pencils 1' 
Found on 

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