The Pencil Catch 22

It happens to all, forgetting a needed writing untensil. In classrooms it seems to happen endlessly. A student really can’t participate fully without a much needed writing tool. As Joshua T Dickerson illustrates in his poem “Cause I Aint Got a Pencil” there are many reasons a student might not have a pencil on any given day. As one who can be forgetful at tines, I want to be forgiving, providing pencils for anyone who needs them. Just like most jobs, if you forget the writing untensil you can just grab another one. Many students carry pencil cases with them, showing that they are prepared for class.

But lately some have become relaiant on the pencils in the room. Asking daily for a pencil to borrow. Of course I allow them to grab a needed tool out of the class pencil case in front of the room. The borrowing really isn’t the issue, but then again it is a concern, because students aren’t borrowing. They are using and then disgarding. Pencils end up everywhere except the pencil box in front of the classroom. At the end of the day I usually can rescue a few from the floor. Many are broken up into unsuable pieces, while others end up in the bottom of bookbags and lockers. How can we get students to value the writing tool when we provide them daily?

Becca who blogs for Science Lessons that Rock lists many methods here. Teachers need to find a method that works for them. I use golf pencils frequently, handing out around 500 per month. I have used the collateral system but it has lead to students leaving items in my room, having to return during different class periods often without the pencil. Our PTC has donates 1000 pencisl to each classroom to help out. I don’t like reward systems that give out rewards for doing the expected. Students don’t need participation rewards. Actions need consequences for learning to happen. This is why we learn more from failure than sucess.

So what consequences should occur when a students fails to borrow properly?

Should it impact their grade? no

Should they be no longer allow to borrow? Maybe

Should they need a different intervention? probably

Its a catch 22. Students need pencils. Many devlopmentally struggle with concept of borrowing. Pencils run out.

How do we solve this issue?

Is this a bigger issue in our society? We don’t value others belongings?

Love to hear you suggestions in the comments.

Sincerely a teacher who doesn’t want to be the pencil cop!

Teaching “the Ocky Way”

I saw this warning on twitter. Dru is right we need to be cautious when using pre-made lesson plans. They were not desinged for the students in our classroom. They were not designed for our teaching style. Depending who designed the lessons they might hit state standards or they might be a simple filler like the “shrink wrapped” cheese above. Educators have to be critical of pre-packaged lessons. Many questions need to be asked:

What is the desired outcome?

Does it meet the standards?

Does it fit my students prior knowledge base?

Does it address our learning needs?

Does it fit my instructional style?

How will my students consume this lesson?

Prepackaged lessons do serve a purpose in education. They give educators a starting point, helping save time. Teachers don’t need to be reinventing lessons every time they teach something new. Starting with a blank slate can be difficult when the topic has never been taught before. It is beneficial to have lessons to serve as a model to start building a quality lesson.

It makes me think of “The Ocky Way” channel found on YouTube/TikTok and Instagram. Where a small deli in Red Hook, NY makes common foods come to life prepared by owner Mohamed. Mohamed has risen to internet fame by taking standard meals, then adds his own touch to them to make them unique for the consumer. Sometimes customers bring in fast food orders from nieghboring stories to have the meal done “The Ocky Way”.

Educators need to customize for their consumers, adding flavor and uniqueness to all the educational bites so the learning won’t be stale.

Time to Rethink guest teachers

Schools have traditional hired guest/substitute teachers to cover classes when the assigned teachers has to be absent. There are many reason for classroom teachers to be absent ranging from attending IEPs, Professional Development, doctor’s appointments or being sick. Teahers leave lesson plans for the guest to delever to the classes. When guest teachers aren’t available in districts, usually other teachers/staff are asked to cover the class during their scheduled preparation time. This model has been used since schools began.this model has been around since schools started. It might be time for this model to change.

Let’s start by being honest the quality of guest teachers is degraded over the last 20 years. Schools used to be able to get educators to be guest teachers while they were looking for a teaching job. These were certified teachers that we hoping to gain employment with the district. Now districts are luck to have warm adult bodies that are available to take attendance and pass out papers.

Today I saw this take on twitter

Not only unpopular but a bad take. This type of thinking is what is leading to educators leaving the profession. First, it takes time to create sub plans and bring class back up to speed after a sub has been in a classroom. Taking a day off as a teacher isn’t a vacation. So if a teacher needs a day off there is a good reason. Second, if districts want teachers to stay in the profession they need to provide the flexiblity that other professions have. Currently it is difficult for educators to get more than 3 minutes to go to the bathroom during the day due to all the responsiblities. Third, mental heath days aren’t just relaxing, these are days to make sure a persons head is right to do the job. Do we really want teachers walking to classrooms without being in the right mental state?

So what is the solution?

Schools need to adjust to the times. Instead of one guest teacher be absent teacher, what if schools had a designated area (media center/computer lab) where students could go when staff is absent to work on the classwork independently. Schools then could have a few personal in this area to monitor students while students work on class work. Sure this might not be best in elementary where students need more adult attention but this should work at middle school and high school. Another option would be to notifiy parents that their child’s teacher is out for the day and give them the option to keep their kids home to work on school work. I am sure their are other methods to solve this problem with out over taxing educators who aren’t in need of taking the day off. Schools need to start thinking outside of the box instead of gaslighting those who are remaining in the profession but just need a day off.