If you are reading edu-twitter, I’ll 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.
To create this article, I decided we must reside in one of two camps, because this is an “all or nothing” position to take on Twitter. The first group does not believe that you should offer pencils freely to students and the second group does.
Let’s take a look.
Do Students Deserve Our Help?
To begin, a few typical responses from those who don’t give out pencils freely and 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.
This first tweet 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.
“Will give pencils, but fail to see the opportunity.”
The “teenagers should know better and be well rounded humans by now” argument.
The “exchange” and “loan” argument. Underline idea; students 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”
Cost/funding argument mixed with not my job.
Pencils are Not Battles, but Opportunities
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 (UDL in action). When doing searches on Twitter, this opinion is a clear majority.
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.
Breaking the mold is a common sentiment expressed in that a school or a class is ready to provide pencils.
This is, again, the terrible connection between having a pencil and results. The ironic or double standard argument.
This gentleman named it for me. Double Standard argument.
The stigma and shame argument to just give students a pencil. This is how I personally express the situation.
Empathy as an argument, even before “empathy” (Design Thinking) was cool.
Bringing some reality to the conversation!
Great Teaching, Through the Lens of a Pencil
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 reduced to this pencil debate and expressed as a Tweet. Here are some examples for the reasons why.
There’s much to write about when it comes to gate-keeping in learning institutions. A pencil may be only the tip of the iceberg. I’d call it Universal Design for Learning (UDL) with swear words.
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 is greater than starting a conflict 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 teacher 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 tweet could be developed into an excellent thread on shame.
Nailed It! Why We Teach, Distilled down to a Pencil
This is a great place to end, by describing in three Tweets my own class and the message I intend to send students. I happily give out pencils from a box that students may access anytime, on their own, whenever they want.
Pencils and Bathrooms! Yes!
Suggested further reading: Tolerance.org and “Give the Kid a Pencil”