they won't use pencils in college

"Tom, what are your thoughts on giving homework?" Mr. Brown asks.

"I don't like it.  If I truly believe that learning happens 24-7 then why not let the kids do the learning on their own?"  

"So, you don't assign any work?"

"Nope.  None. I think the word 'work' is key there.  I'm more interested in learning than working and I don't want to kill their motivation to learn."  

"If you really feel that way about homework, why do you make them work when they are in class?"  he asks.  

"It's not a choice." He's silent for awhile and finally says, "I guess you really can't completely scrap grades. But, are you ever worried that we won't be preparing students for colleges? I mean, with the pencil initiatives and the lack of homework and all.  Are you ever afraid you're doing more harm than good?"  

"Look, I hear that same argument with pencils.  People tell me, 'Techno-Tommy, you realize they will use pens and not pencils when they are in college.'  But here is my issue with that: they're not in college. I wouldn't make that argument for having kids binge drink or have sex with strangers.  I wouldn't suggest kids go wherever they please or smoke cigarettes in the halls.  I wouldn't suggest we reduce the school day to two hours and then allow them to do homework on their own time.  You know why?" 


"Because they are kids, Brown.  That's why." 

This leads to a deeper conversation.  Brown goes back to the issue of college readiness and suggests that maybe there is some validity on the importance of kids still using pen and ink rather than simply busting out pencils.  He mentions a tension between preparing kids for the future and teaching them at their developmental level. 

He shares his concerns with the lack of permanence in pencils.  "Just look at the phrase 'pencil you in.' It's a reminder that all things can be erased.  I wonder sometimes if we need pen and ink to remind students that words are permanent and not cheap."

We argue and criticize.  We laugh, just so that we can argue at a deeper level without anyone getting hurt.  Mr. Brown brings up points about relevant, meaningful homework and I share ideas of extension activities that are ungraded and voluntary.  He warns me about going slate-free and suggests that I am being as stubborn as the anti-pencil people when I refuse a medium just because it's not cutting edge.

We find common ground and yet we still disagree.  

For all the talk about relevant professional development, I'm convinced that our conversation led to a higher level of professionalism simply because it was so unprofessional.  It was casual and chaotic.  It was interactive.  At times, it was offensive.  But it was real.  

1 comment:

  1. Hey wait a minute I used pencils in college quite a bit.

    In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, is having a contest where every teacher in your school can win a free gift! Check out the contest at my link.