We are so fortunate in that we often have the opportunity to partner with teachers in learning, problem solving, and improving practices. Inevitably, across various contexts and grade levels and locales, teachers report frustration with students for not having pencils.
We kept hearing it. We’d ask questions like, “What frustrates you so much about the pencil issue?” and the responses were varied. Some said it was an indicator of showing up unprepared, a lack of respect for them or their class, a lack of responsibility. But, for us, it always felt like a resource issue. Teachers should have all the pencils they need to engage their learners in all the ways.
When we are confronted with beliefs about what kids “should” do or have, we are always mindful of all the ways we – as adults and professionals – drop the ball. We are often without a writing utensil when we need it most, yet there is always someone nearby willing to share. We know these teachers would give us a pencil if we asked! They would never tell us we were disrespectful for not having one or take it as a lack of our preparedness for our time together. It happens. People forget pencils. And all kinds of other things! But, for some reason, kids not having pencils was a very frustrating and pervasive problem for teachers.
The more we talked about it, the more it seemed like it was not really about pencils at all. It was about resources. Supplies, yes, but also time! We have seen teachers tag their pencils with identifying markers and create check in/check out systems for pencils, some schools have pencil machines next to the soda machines!
So, we thought maybe this is a small way we could alleviate a huge frustration for teachers. We could get pencils to teachers and kids. Lots of pencils. Loads of pencils. Enough pencils that no one has to man a sign in/sign out for pencils or sweat a broken pencil, or worry about trying to find one on the floor to avoid being in trouble. What if we could just get pencils to teachers? Would that one teeny tiny thing do anything at all to take a teeny tiny load off teachers’ overwhelming list?
We crowdsourced pencils from our friends and families generosity using social media and Amazon wishlists. We connect directly with teachers using teachingisintellectual’s Instagram and send as many pencils as we can to each teachers’ request. We take pencils to every professional development we get to do now because it is one small thing we can do for our teacher partners.
We’ve distributed over 20,000 pencils now and we hope it’s just the beginning. We advocate for fully funded public education and will continue to fight that fight. Meanwhile, we will contribute as many pencils as we can to as many teachers who need them.
Drop some pencils off at a school near you today. Do it again next month. Kids need pencils and it is something you can do. And pay off an overdrawn lunch account while you’re there too.
Jen Newton, PhD is an assistant professor in early childhood/early childhood special education (isn’t that a lot of words for what should be one field??). I talk a lot and have strong opinions – or so I am told.