This was back in October of 2007, and it addresses an issue that every single teacher on the face of the planet has had to face at one time or another. Why can't my kids bring a pencil to class??
This article was originally published here at education.com on October 23, 2007.
We teachers hear all sorts of questions over and over.
"Can I use the bathroom?"
"Is 60 a good grade?"
But I think the question I hear the most is, "Can I have a pencil?"
I’m a math teacher at a school where kids often come unprepared to class. It's not unusual, especially at the beginning of the year, for them to repeatedly forget papers, homework, and yes, even pencils. (Although they always seem to remember to bring the plastic rings and Yugi-Oh cards.)
It seems like such a simple thing for kids to remember. Not a day goes by when they won’t need to write something. Perhaps not at a school where they practice telepathy and astral body projection; but at most schools where your basic math, spelling, and writing are taught, pencils are a necessity.
Which is why it's so frustrating when kids come to class with no writing tools. Not unsharpened pencils, not even dull or broken pencils. Just flat out nothing. And then they ask that dreaded question -- "Can I have a pencil?"
Now many people might be saying, "Come on, Mister Stingy -- a pencil costs what, 10 cents? You can afford that, even on a teacher's salary!"
Sure, I could afford that. But here's where the math comes in (and I am a math teacher, after all). Imagine that 10 cent pencil being multiplied by six or seven kids – every day! It really starts to add up.
This is why teachers have become so creative in thinking up ways to motivate kids to remember their pencils. In days of old, when a student didn't bring his own quill, the teacher probably made him go out, chase down a bird, and pluck his own feather. Nowadays, some teachers have taken to handing out short, stubby golf pencils with no erasers, or ridiculously oversized novelty pencils the size of Christmas Yule logs. Pencils that the kids will be able to do their work with, but pencils they'll be embarrassed to have to use. Guess what-- after this happens a few times, that student doesn't forget to bring his own pencil anymore.
Parents, you can really help us out by asking your child to run down a checklist of backpack essentials every morning before leaving home. Or even at night, before going to bed.
Homework folder? Check!
Assignment planner? Check!
At least one sharpened pencil? Check!
Together, we can knock out this problem of unpreparedness, and "Can I have a pencil?" can be unseated as the most frequently asked question.
Then we can tackle the next item on the list -- "Do I have to show my work?"