I’ve been reflecting on pencil use: both in my classroom and in my school, and in education in general.
I’ve decided to implement a BYOP program this year: Bring Your Own Pencil.
There is a lot to consider before allowing pencils to come into my classroom. To start, I’m going to have a week of lessons called a Pencil Citizenship Boot Camp. I’ve got a lot planned for this week of lessons. I’ve booked in the local community police officer who will come and speak about the legal consequences of using a pencil and making bad choices. She’ll talk about various extreme situations involving pencil use, including students who have committed crimes, hurt other people and landed in jail due to abuse of pencils.
She’ll talk about various extreme situations involving pencil use, including students who have committed crimes, hurt other people and landed in jail due to abuse of pencils.
I also want to teach the students about proper use of pencils. I want to make sure they aren’t stabbing each other with pencils, poking or falling and ending up with a pencil in the eye. Also, I want to stress healthy use of the pencils, including a strong focus on proper pencil grip and avoiding cramping while using pencils.
I want to run a few lessons about how not to use the pencils. I plan on banning doodling, tracing, scribbling and sketching as I believe there is no educational value in this. I also don’t want students drawing pictures of each other, especially caricatures.
I’m concerned with both equity and also controlling how students are using their pencils, so I will provide and manage the pencil sharpener. Students are not permitted to bring in their own pencil sharpeners. I will personally sharpen any pencils to prevent any over-sharpening.
We’ll go to the gymnasium for an assembly to discuss rules and consequences, led by the principal. They will be:
Pencil Code of Conduct
- Erasers are out of sight unless erasing with teacher permission in the classroom only
- No pencils are allowed in the halls unless a teacher provides a Press Pass
- Pencils are out of sight unless a student is given explicit teacher permission to use it for a learning purpose
- Pencils are never out at recess or lunch
- For phys. ed. in periods 1 and 2, 9 and 10 – pencils stay in the students’ lockers. During all other phys. ed. periods, pencils goes in the bin on the stage. Students to put their pencils in the bin BEFORE going into the change room and pick up their pencils AFTER they have changed when class is over.
- Pencils are never allowed in the bathroom or change rooms
- Pencils must be in pencil cases while on school property
- Pencils are only for learning (no doodling, scribbling, games, etc.)
- Drawing pictures, and/or writing down what others have said while at school related activities is not allowed unless approved by school staff for educational purposes. Drawing pictures of others without their permission is not allowed.
1st offence – pencil is taken to the office by the teacher and student receives a warning that is documented
2nd offence – the office calls the parent and a pencil contract is created, and signed by parent and student
3rd offence – personal pencils are no longer allowed at school
4th offence – suspension for engaging in conduct that constitutes opposition to authority
I’m not naive, nor do I mean any disrespect by the above satire. I am a dreamer, who hopes that one day the work we do with students around technology use will be like what we currently do with pencils.
I fear that how we work with students and technology is overly negative, and comes from a reactionary and negative space. I’ve had students scared, or at least reluctant to use technology, for fear of the consequences. This past year, I had a student bring an iPad to school everyday, but leave it in his locker, because he felt it just wasn’t worth it. He had this powerful tool at his finger tips, but preferred paper-pencil activities because they were safer.
Students will make mistake, no doubt about it. But I think that if all we focus on is the mistakes, then this becomes the culture of technology.
But I think that if all we focus on is the mistakes, then this becomes the culture of technology.
Why do we ban technology use? I don’t have an answer to that, but I also think we aren’t quite prepared for these mistakes as well. I think we are living in incredible times, with our work heading off into an unpredictable future. And I fear that we are dangerously far behind with technology use in schools. There are some amazing examples of cutting edge classrooms, with incredibly innovative educators leveraging some amazing experiences for students. But I fear that these are few and far between. I believe that schools will be on the wrong side of history when it comes to technology use.
So I put this out as a reminder to myself: create a culture in the classroom that celebrates the innovation, imagination and creation that can be leveraged with technology. Focus on the positive, deal with the mistakes, and let the consequences improve behaviour.
I’ll check in to see how I’m managing this!