Monday, November 25, 2013

No More Excuses: I Don't Have a Pencil

This may be the problem that I've been trying to combat for the longest.  I have tried many strategies:

Method 1:  If the students didn't have a pencil, then they didn't take notes.

Method 2:  The students needed to trade something with me to borrow a pencil.  This method has potential.  It didn't work for me because it caused too many interruptions.  First the students would come into class and sit down.  We would start the lesson and I would notice a few students just sitting there not taking notes.  When I found out it was because they didn't have a pencil, I needed to stop class to trade with the students.

Method 3:  Kitchen Utensils.  Read about this idea from "Square Root of Negative One Teach Math".  This worked for a few weeks, and I thought I was on to something.  However, after a few weeks, I had a bunch of broken spoons and no pencils.

Method 4:  Make the pencils free and always available.
I was reading the book, Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson when it hit me.  In the book he talks about the bible verse Romans 12: 17-21 (see below).  Phil talks about how people were stealing the fish from his nets.  He was threatening them and trying to scare them into not stealing, but it wasn't working.  So, he decided to take the advice of the bible. He caught some men trying to steal his fish and told them to go ahead and take it.  He reasoned with them that if they were stealing it, then they must really need it.  Anytime they needed some fish, he advised those men to go ahead and take some of his.  No one bothers his nets anymore.
I figured if it can work for fish, then it can work for pencils.  I told the students that the pencils were there for them and if they needed one they can take one.  If they would give it back at the end of the period, that would be great.  However, if they didn't have one for the rest of the day and needed one, they could help themselves.
It's not fool proof.  I still have pencils go missing, but it's not like it was.  Last year I would go though about 1 pack of pencils a week.  This year, it's about 1 pack every 1.5-2 months.

Romans 12:17-21

New International Version (NIV)
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord.20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[b]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

1 comment:

  1. I find the level of student responsibility changes from group to group, year to year. Some students are just more responsible about coming to class with pencils than others. Last year, I charged for pencils (we did a grade level economy) and it worked for some but not all of the repeat offenders. When that no longer worked, I got ugly pencils and made bright orange duct tape flags. That kept more of the pencils I bought in my room than anything else I've ever done because every kid knew those pencils were mine. This year, I keep finding abandoned pencils in my room and when someone doesn't have a pencil, they get an abandoned pencil. So far this year, I've given out roughly the same amount as I've found, so it's been working decently. A few years ago, I had the "help yourself" policy and I decided 8th graders aren't responsible enough to handle it well. I became so frustrated by the disrespectful actions of some (breaking pencils, tossing them in the trash at the end of the period) that I refuse to go that route again. What works for one teacher doesn't work for another, so I hope you've found the perfect plan for you!