Back in Cheorwon, I demanded that my students bring pencils to class. I wasn’t going to carry around pencils all the time and didn’t have one designated English room to keep a handy stock pencils in. I continued this battle when I moved to Donghae, even though I do have my own classroom. I tried. I tried so hard. But it’s still generally a win if the student shows up with their textbook, at least, and just a bonus if they bring their pencil.
When I made the list of materials for camp last year, I requested, among other things, a box of 25 pencils. We didn’t use the pencils during camp, because apparently children who come to camp are good at remembering their own pencils and also, I failed to request a pencil sharpener, so the pencils remained unsharpened until I remembered to bring one in, which was not until camp was over. Oops!
When the new semester started, I sharpened the pencils beautifully and even made an Instagram post with a quote from You’ve Got Mail. Because who can possibly look at a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils without thinking of You’ve Got Mail? I was happy I could finally stop bothering over the students who continually failed to bring a pencil to class. Of course, there was the possibility that the pencils would disappear, but I was prepared for this. I carefully labeled each pencil “ENG” and explained to all the students that the pencils belong in the English room, and they should never be taken out of the English room. If they accidentally took one, and found it in their pencil case later, they should return it. That didn’t work.
Do children eat erasers? Because I can really think of no other explanation for the phenomena that occurs in my classroom. My pencils have erasers when I put them in the classroom, but after being used by a child just once, the whole eraser is gone! I am not sure if they merely bite off the eraser for the fun of it, or if they actually consume it, but as they are middle school boys, I’ve seen them eat worse things than erasers, so it wouldn’t really surprise me.
There are three sad little eraser-less pencils left from the original 25. Middle school English rooms are just where pencils go to die.
I am now preparing pencils with enormous red bows on top in an attempt to prevent students from wandering off with them. I’m not optimistic. I have a feeling the red bows will be torn off after the first day.
I brought in more pencils and my co-teacher equipped me with little label stickers in Korean. It’s still not perfect, but a few weeks in and there are 14/16 new pencils remaining, so that seems pretty good.
On the other hand, maybe the pencils are not really being destroyed by the students. One of my 1st year students drew a cute picture for me in our design-an-animal class, and it might just illustrate the real truth of what happens:
The pencils sprout legs, a head with a horn and even a little tail, and the happy little Rhincels then run off, never to be used for English class again.