Pencils…they can be the bane of any teacher's existence. Long ago, I decided I would not be the pencil police. Instead, I have a very simple "Pencil Policy." On the first day of school, each child is given a brand-new, perfectly-sharpened pencil. Once the lead of that pencil becomes dull, or once the lead of that pencil breaks (or once a student pulls the lead of that pencil out - sometimes on purpose, sometimes not) that student is required to take the "old" pencil, walk it over to the "To Be Sharpened" container, place the pencil, led side down, into the container, and then pick up a new pencil from the "Freshly Sharpened" container. Easy, peasy, right? For some kids, yes; for others, no.
I'm a stickler for making the kids bring their old pencil because, guess what? A kid will drop a pencil, make no attempt to look for it, and then get up and get a new pencil, and then before you know it, we're all out of pencils! (I can't tell you how many times I will hear the tell-tale ping of a dropped pencil, watch it roll two chairs over, and for the kid who dropped it, it literally doesn't exist anymore. He'll shout out, "I don't have a pencil." My response is always the same, "Well, kid, you had one, like, two seconds ago, what happened?" And the kid will be like, "I don't know." And truly, he doesn't know because it doesn't even occur to him (or her) to check the floor. Cracks me up…and frustrates me to no end sometimes.)
So, if I see a kid walking over to the pencil cans with no pencil, I'm all over it, "Hey, where's your pencil?" "Um, I don't know. I don't have one." "Well, you're not getting a new one until you find the old one so I suggest you find it…pronto." (I know, I know, so much for not being the pencil police.) One quick glance to the floor typically reveals that this child's pencil is underneath his seat partner's chair. I'll tell the student this and I swear he'll look at his seat partner like he had something to do with it.
If you haven't figured it out by now, and I'm sure you have, the pencil policy exists so that we always have 23 pencils. Occasionally, I'll throw a pencil away, like when it's been chewed to within inches of its life, or when it becomes too short from too much sharpening. And every now and then, really and truly, a pencil does just disappear. But, for the most part, we always have a pretty healthy supply, thanks to my handy-dandy, easy-to-follow pencil policy.
And then one day, we didn't have such a healthy supply anymore. I puzzled over it a bit, but then quickly blew it off because, despite the fact that I am devoting an entire blog post to this (and my first one of the new year, at that) I really am far too busy to spend too much time on disappearing pencils. So I let it go…
Until one day when another class is in my room (we do weekly rotations with the class next door) and a student from this other class reaches into the desk she is sitting at to get a pencil and exclaims, "Oh my gosh, whose desk is this? Look at all these pencils!" I walk over and, oh my gosh, it appears I have a pencil hoarder in my class! Seriously, in all my years, I have never seen this many pencils in one kid's desk. Occasionally, a kid will have two, maybe three, but this kid had, like, 20 pencils, at least. And I'm not exaggerating! (All those times I saw that kid out of her desk now made perfect sense!)
Now I have to figure out how to handle this. Clearly, I want her to understand that she is in, like, major violation of the pencil policy; however, I don't want to embarrass her in front of everyone by calling her out. So when we finish our rotations and my class is back in their seats and working away, I quietly go over to her desk, take her basket out, point to the plethora of pencils, give her the teacher look, and point to the pencil cans on the other side of the room (as in, you better return all those pencils missy). Thankfully, she gets the message loud and clear. Only here's the deal…she has hoarded so many pencils that her little hands can't manage the load and she has to make two trips! When she returns from returning all those pencils, I quietly remind her of our pencil policy…and make a mental note to keep a better eye on that little pencil pilferer!