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Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Shoe for a Pencil…

“I can’t find my pencil! I lost my pencil! My pencil is broken! Someone took it!...etc”

The litany of the mysterious disappearing pencil is endless. I haven’t been in a classroom yet where there wasn’t at least one person standing at my desk begging me so solve his/her shortage of pencils problem.

Some classrooms have a stash of new or used pencils for loan. Some substitutes bring extra pens and pencils to lend for such occasions.

…I don’t.

Even if the teacher has a stash for loan, I don’t hand them out for free.

Kid: Can I borrow a pencil?
Me: Sure, ask one of the other kids to lend you one.

Kid: No one else has any. Can I borrow one of the teachers’ pencils?
Me: Sure, give me one of your shoes.

Kid: What?
Me: That’s the deal, a shoe for a pencil. When I get the pencil back, you get your shoe back.

That’s how I ended up with four, single shoes under my desk today in 4th grade. There would have been more but the others decide to redouble their efforts in locating a writing implement in the dark recesses of their own desk or the kindness of a kid with a surplus of leadware.

Now before you think I’m mean (…or brilliant depending on your viewpoint), let me explain that this idea isn’t original. Some teachers have hoards of new and used pencils that kids can use without limit. Some schools have pencil vending machines where you can buy one for a quarter. Some teachers use pencils as bribes for correct behavior and rewards.

A 6th grade teacher I worked for a couple of years ago explained that she felt the kids were taking advantage of her generosity with the new pencils so she started “lending” them out only in exchange for one of their shoes. She noticed right away a decrease in requests. A side affect is that it also cuts down on unnecessary interruptions during class time.

Obviously, I believe this woman is brilliant!

4th grade bonus joke of the day:

Q: What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?
A: Nacho Cheese!


PamelaTrounstine said...

I agree, it's a good trick! It's also an old trick, my mom was using it for years, and she retired a few years ago after 36 years teaching.

Ricochet said...

I teach high school. I figured out the first year I taught that supplying pencils would run me (conservatively) $300 a year that I do not have. So I supply golf pencils. They're cheap. The kids hate them so they return them and only take them if they are desperate. I do buy pencils for them on the rare occassions that I do scantrons. I also pick up pencils from the ground (I usually tell them I picked them up in the bathroom).

I had THE EXACT SAME CONVERSATION with a HS Junior yesterday who wanted to borrow a pencil. I offered him a golf pencil (no) then asked for a shoe (no) then borrow from a friend.

I tell them on day 1 what kind of pencils I provide. And I never loan pens.

Jene said...

Smart teacher

Theresa Milstein said...

1) While, I love the ideas, I don't want their shoes. Alternative? I usually tell them to get one from a classmate, when nobody else has any, the whole thing becomes a bigger pain.

When I was an assistant, I use to get pretty pencils and give them to students as gifts and rewards. I liked that they worked harder to get a pencil.

2) Ricochet, if you give them gold pencils, what do you do about begging for erasers?

Chris Osborne said...

As much as I'd love to do something like this, I'd be afraid to. There are so many people wanting to be subs where I am that I worry I wouldn't get any more jobs.

Madeleine said...

Yep. I've been doing this for years. The kids learn quickly about big words like "collateral." You can also ask for wallets, bookbags or anything else that might be valuable to a kid.

Brian Zollinhofer said...

I do the same thing, but teaching in an all boys middle school can create some smelly classrooms...

Kristin M. said...

Haha! I've done the same thing, and the other day was thinking of doing it again.


Kelly said...

I do the same thing as a sub, though I travel with a limited supply of pencils (which I rarely personally touch because they're germy and gross). In elementary grades, I ask for collateral... or make a big show of having the whole class witness the borrowing (peer pressure works wonders!). Middle school I have the kids leave their ID on the desk until I get the pencil back. They can't go anywhere without their ID, so my stuff always comes back!

Karen said...

I do a similar thing as a sub, although I only sub secondary (6-12). By that time they should know that they need to come to class, prepared and I tell them so. I usually ask for their phone or i-pod. (even though they aren't supposed to have them, they all do). Definitely cuts down on requests!! Chris--I've never had kids complain about me because they know if they do, the admin. will ask them WHY they didn't have materials, etc. Don't worry about that, so much. If you are fair and good, they will respect you and not complain to anyone other than their peers.

Miss Snix said...

That is just great!

Anonymous said...

But what if the shoes cost over 100 bucks? Might have some angry parents. Just sayin.

KauaiMark said...


Just that much more incentive to return the pencil or find one in their desk/backpack/floor