Gertrude the School Curriculum Instructional Interventionist Academic Specialist storms into my classroom after school, "Tom, Tom, you cannot have students bring home pencils and paper."
"Is this about the dangers of carrying them in their pockets? I've told you that not a single child has punctured a scrotum."
"It's not about that at all."
"Is this about damage of property? I've had parents sign legal waivers."
"It's not that, either. I have a journal article about how students who use pencils at home have lower standardized test scores. So, for the love of test-taking, we need to stop our students from taking home pencils."
"I take issue with that research. The only measurement of learning was a drill-and-kill bubble test. How is that measuring authentic learning?"
"It is what it is," she adds. It's her mantra that she uses to avoid divergent viewpoints.
"Look, I understand the research, but it has to be taken within context. Often times, students in low-income areas . . . "
"like ours, which means the context is the same . . ." she cuts in.
"Let me finish. Schools in low-income areas often have students who come in with a mentality that pencils are to be used for entertainment. Their parents don't use pencils in their factory jobs and don't have experience using pencils in schools. Because the poor are often marginalized, clever marketers tailor pencil use in poor areas toward entertainment. So, they come into my class thinking, 'Cool, this is a toy.' But we can change the paradigm."
"How exactly do you plan to do that?"
"I met with the parents and the students and explained ways that pencils could be used for learning. I worked with Mr. Brown to develop a parent pencil program, where parents have learned certain skills we're teaching students. It's actually been a really cool, horizontal kind of thing, where they have begun taking charge of the courses . . . "
"Look, that's nice. It really is. But, how do you keep them accountable at home? They'll just use the supplies to play Hang Man. Such a sick and twisted game!"
"I don't hold them accountable. I try and find projects that keep them interested. But if they choose to play Hang Man or go on the pen pal networks, I'm okay with it. There's probably some learning that's taking place that we don't realize."
"Okay, you keep telling yourself that, but don't blame me when your test scores are lower." I love the use of "your" right here, as if I am the one taking the drill-and-kill tests.