Oct 30, 2011

pencil policy - first two years vs second two years

My first two years - "Nothing should ever prevent a student from learning in my class. If they need a pencil, I will provide it. No questions asked. I won't hassle them or nothin'. You're in this class to learn, and learning you will do. Being pencil-less shouldn't prevent you from doing so"

My next two years - "Part of high school is learning the habits and skills to succeed in college and in life. If we take this stance, students MUST learn to have their materials on a day-to-day basis. Students must come to class prepared and if they realize I am not a pencil giver early, they'll meet my expectations and bring their pencils. Plus, I'm tired of giving out pencils."

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I'd love to give pencils that say "I forgot to bring a pencil to math class and all I got was this stupid pencil." The irony.

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I don't know where I stand anymore. What's your opinion? What's your policy for students who come to class without a pencil? And, if you ARE a pencil giver, do you have a specific procedure? (Are pencils in a cup where students can grab one? Do you charge a quarter? Do you take collateral? Etc Etc)

To give, or not to give (a pencil); that is the question.

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Also, do you let them use pens? Goodness, the bag of worms we can open with that one...

5 comments:

Summers School said...

I do not give pencils... however, I DO give pens. I bought a whole bunch at the start of the year at Staples for a penny. (When I say a lot, I mean 15*60) I let them use that. I also do not keep sharpeners because they just break and I am tired of it.

My students use ONLY pen in math so that they don't erase their work. They are allowed to use pen on other things also. I know my SPED kid loves it because it's so much smoother to write with a pen than a pencil. I'm in 4th grade.

Amy Gruen said...

This year I started putting out a cup of very special pencils. This has been my favorite solution in 12 years of teaching, and I plan to stick with it. I wrote about it recently, in fact:

http://squarerootofnegativeoneteachmath.blogspot.com/2011/10/8-weeks-8-pencils.html

Dave Orphal said...

Hi Ian,

You bring up a GREAT topic here. Not just pencils but the very real conflict between what we value as teachers. We could have the same conversation with the topic of:

Late work
Tardies
Music in Class

Essentially the question is what's the balance. There are life or soft skills that we are also teaching in our classes along with our specific content area. These include, but are not limited to, punctuality, time management, supplies, and attention management.

What's more important, the child getting all of her work done well, or done on time?

What's more important, the child participating in class, or getting there before the bell rings?

These are important questions for teachers to grapple with.

I don't have any advice as to a "golden mean" of sorts - you know, the perfect balance between curriculum and soft skills. All I can say is this, after 15 years teaching, I'm still trying to find a system that strikes a good balance between all of my competing values.

Eyawn said...

@Summer_School: Interesting. You're the first math teacher I've heard who prefers pen over pencil. I see the rationale, but I guess I never took a look at it that way. With that comment, I'll cringe a bit less when a student uses pens on assignments and assessments. In a sense, it's BETTER. (Though, I'm sure it requires training to show students how to work well using a pen.)

@Amy: WOW! I love this! I am duplicating your system. In fact, I re-created it just now. I will take a picture and post soon. All the credit goes to you. I'm curious to see how the experiment will work. I do fear students abusing the "loaner pencils." (For example, a student could survive class without EVER bringing a pencil by using a loaner day-in and day-out).

@Dave: I agree. The pencil policy is simply the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps the balance can flex or shift depending on the current group of students? Last year, there were only a few students who forgot writing utensils. It was easier to be the non-pencil-giver-a-hole. This year, I am finding more of a need for a system that allows for pencil loaning.

christopherdanielson said...

My own pencil policy (back in the day; don't have to deal with this particular issue at the college level) could be summed up in two words.

GOLF PENCILS

They are cheap, kids don't want to use them, but they'll get a kid through class. No shame, no big deal, just a cup of golf pencils in a publicly accessible place and NO WHINING accepted about how crappy they are to write with.

And I got no issues with pens in math.

Indeed, watching my second-grade son go to town with his eraser, I often wish he would just X out and move on. Erasing is overrated.