As professional educators, it is our goal and our promise to cultivate attentive, prepared, life-long learners out of our students. We expect our students to come to class prepared to learn and they expect us to engage their attention for the duration of class.
Then there are those students who are never prepared and come to class without a pen. This may be the direct cause to premature greying amongst teachers. It’s a known fact that teachers need to keep extra writing utensils on hand for those students who come to class unprepared.
But how do you keep those pens from walking off with the student?
We are busy enough running our class, and too often we give out those pens or pencils. As it is not of utmost importance, we forget, the student forgets who gave them the pen and they take it to the next class. Soon our charitable extra pen will disappear into the void, like all their former pens.
There is a way to save those pens.
I found that when handing out the pen or pencil to the student, you need to create an identity to the writing tool. You need to share with the student a story that makes them look at the pen in a new way. It’s not just an extra pen, it’s something of emotional value.
I had a pencil with a rubber bendy lamb on the top. I discovered when I had a student ask for the pencil, if I made a “big deal” about him being allowed to work with my lucky lamb pencil, the student returned it with pride. He was thankful for being allowed to use the lamb pencil. Soon students in other classes would come in and request to use my lucky lamb pencil. And no one ever walked off with it. A lamb pencil folklore now existed amongst all my students.
I had a pen from a Las Vegas hotel in my collection. When a student asked to borrow a pen, I handed her the pen and said, “This pen is from my trip to Vegas. I lost everything there, except this pen. Please return it.” Again, a kind of excitement and mysticism surrounded the Vegas pen. Students requested it and were excited to tell me at the end of class that they were returning my Vegas pen, safe and sound, unlike my life savings.
There are plenty of tricks to the teaching trade that we learn along the way to help create a memorable experience for our students, even beyond the studies at hand. Creating a sense of lore around even the extra pens you hand out can have a lasting effect on creating a classroom identity, as well keeping you from having to buy more pens.