Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Day 170: "Pencil: A Play In One Act"

 Mr. Aion's classroom, an activity has just been given out to students.  Mr. Aion finds himself circulating through the class, clarifying instructions when he is approached by a student.

"Mr. Aion, I need a pencil."
**zoom into student's head**
Crap. I forgot my pencil again.  I was actually gonna try this assignment, but I can't without something to write with.

**zoom out of student's head**

Mr. Aion
 "There might be one on my desk. If not, I don't have one."

"There isn't one. How am I supposed to do my work without a pencil?"

Mr. Aion
"Then I don't have one for you. You really need to come prepared to class."

**zoom into Aion's head**

What day is it?? How have we made it 170 days into the school year and you still don't bring a pencil to class? What do you think we do here, sit and stare at each other?  I've given you pencils almost every day this year in the hopes that you would become responsible.  I reminded you daily that you needed something with which to write.

How do I teach you responsibility?  How do I teach you self-reliance?  How do I convey to you in a meaningful way that lack of preparation makes it so much harder for you to succeed?

**zoom out of Aion's head**

"Then I guess I can't do my work today."

Mr. Aion
"That's not an acceptable solution. Did you ask someone else if they had a pen or pencil for you to borrow?"

**zoom into student's head**

I don't understand why you're so annoyed.  It's not a big deal.  I just forgot my pencil and you're getting all bent out of shape.  All the other days that I've asked you for one, you've had one.  Why would I expect you to NOT have one for me today?

It's your job to provide me with an education.  How am I supposed to get my education if you won't give me a pencil?

**zoom out of student's head**

"Does anyone have a pencil for me?"

Mr. Aion
"Very well, here is my pen. I would like it back when you're done."

"Why would I want to keep your pen?"

**pen is returned chewed and bent**
**Mr. Aion throws pen in trash**



I'm trying to put myself in the mind of a 13-year old who needs me to give them a writing instrument every single day.  Part of me recognizes that at 13, it's hard to keep everything straight in terms of what they need to carry.  Our school does not allow students to carry backpacks, which makes it very difficult.  It's not an excuse because we have plenty of students who DO have pencils every day.

If a student comes to my class with willingness to learn and participate, I should be doing everything I can to help foster that.  If that means giving them a pencil every day, it seems like a small price to pay.

On the other hand...
"Why, yes! I DO think you're made of pencils."
I worry that I am fostering dependence.  If I am willing to provide a kid with a pencil every single day, what incentive do they have to bring one of their own?  More so than content, I want them to learn life skills, one of which is preparation.  It's not as though I am expecting them to bring a complicated or expensive apparatus each day.  It's not as though we only use pencils once or twice each month. 

I honestly don't know where I come down in this debate.  The reality is that when I have pencils, I have no problem lending them, letting the kids know that when they run out, they are gone.  Like typical children (and many adults), they never consider that the pencils will eventually run out and they should maybe start bringing their own..

It's endlessly frustrating.

Did you not realize you were coming to school today? Did you not think that you might need to write something?

The line between supporting and enabling is a very thin one.

This was a stressful post for me to write, so I'm going to end with a picture of me as an angry unicorn dictator.

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