Give Your Student a Pencil – Ultimate Guide Why We Give Pencils, One Tweet at a Time

If you are reading edutwitter, I’m sure to bet that you have seen a slow-burning debate over pencils or even this article from tolerace.org. More precisely, “Should teachers unconditionally give a student a pencil in class?” I have collected more than 100 Tweets and have curated the conversation with some amazing responses for you to enjoy.

First of all, we must reside in two camps, as this is an all or nothing position to take on Twitter. Either you don’t believe that you should hand out pencils as this betrays the chance for a student to learn responsibility in this micro moment or, well, you say teachers should just give students pencils. Let’s take a look.

First off, a few typical responses from those who don’t give out pencils freely, unconditionally. These folks seem to share the idea that responsibility isn’t for the teacher to participate in, rather that the duty is strictly for the student to shoulder – I’m being as generous as I can to this side.

This is the crux of the don’t give a pencil argument, responsibility.
This Tweet is a clear “I don’t trust or respect my students” position.
The “Not My Job” argument.
Does give pencils and fails to see the opportunity.
The “teenagers should know better and be well rounded humans by now” argument.
The exchange and loan argument. Here, they don’t actually deserve the pencil.
More of the borrowing argument.
Again, borrowing seems to be the solution here but the distrust of students is evident.
“Not my Job”
Money issue mixed with not my job.

Now, let’s check out some typical responses from those who give pencils out freely. The suggestion here is several fold but might be best summed up as an act of respect and also an incredibly easy way to stay focused on learning in the classroom. This side of the argument seems to appear on twitter 10:1 – suggesting a heavy bias to just give the kid a pencil already.

A common argument is that dealing with pencils is not the hill to die on with students, nor is it appropriate to tie their results to having or not having a pencil.
This is again the terrible connection between having a pencil and results.
Bursting the mold is a common sentiment expressed in that a school or a class is ready to provide pencils.
The ironic or double standard argument.
This gentleman named it for me. Double Standard argument.
The Stigma and Shame argument.
Empathy as an argument, even before “empathy” was cool.
Bringing some reality to the conversation!

Giving out pencils seems to win this argument hands down, so now let’s move onto something a little deeper. Why are we talking about giving pencils out and what are the underlying benefits we assign to this action? It appears that our entire value system can be backed down to this pencil debate and expressed as a Tweet. Here are some examples for the reasons why.

There is a ton to write about when it comes to gate-keeping in learning institutions. A pencil may be only the tip of the iceberg.
Yes! This Tweet draws a direct line between our actions as teachers and how we empower our students.
The pencil as a vehicle for our values. “Signifier and Affordance” for any designers out there?
Productivity > starting a fight with a student over a pencil.
Purpose, we are here for greater reasons than what students bring into our classes.
Significance. I see this expression linked into all the other Tweets above.
Trust and respect are earned everyday. Most notably that of the classroom teacher.
Agency. This quote demonstrates how much deeper you must still go to meet our true goals as teachers.

Pencils as a joke. I can’t help but smile at a few of these, even if shaming has no place. These might make for a good Tweet while a normal pencil will get the job done well, with no shame required. Context matters here so I suspect that many of these folks are believers in giving out pencils unconditionally.

Funny without shame, I suspect.
Shame is funny?
They actually call her pencils, “pencils of shame.” Goodness!
This could develop into a real nice thread on shame.
Got Her!

This might be a great place to end, the offerings within my own class and the message I intend to send students. These three tweets might not be my favorite by themselves, but combined they do a fine job of telling my story and why I happily give out pencils from a box that students may access anytime, on their own, whenever, however and no reason needed.

Pencils and Bathrooms! Yes!

Suggested further reading: Tolerance.org and “Give the Kid a Pencil”

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