"Rumor has it that you are supplying children with wide-ruled paper." Supplying? Am I some type of a cocaine dealer? Do I look like Coca-Cola?
"It's not a rumor. It's true. I let the students use wide-ruled paper. Some choose to bring in college-ruled paper and I let them pick their learning tool." My wife hates my incessant use of the word "tool." She says paper isn't really a tool unless it's turned into functional oragami. She says an artist doesn't call paint brushes tools and that few scholars would ever call a book a tool for that matter.
"But they will be college ruled so they need to use what they'll use in college. They need to use what they will have in the real world."
I want to cut her off right here. In the real world, children my students' age work in factories for fourteen hours a day. In the real world, nations wage wars in the name of ideologies that their own citizens don't understand. I'm not so sure I'm ready to boot my kiddos out into the real world so soon.
"I get that paper for free. Paper engineers work on the Linus Project and my students can access it for free."
"Do you know where they are getting it from? I mean, it could be stolen paper," she adds, with the thickest italics should could offer.
"It's open source, so it really is free."
"But it's not college ruled. Don't your students deserve the best?" she asks.
"If my goal is to train students to use a particular paper, then I've failed miserably as a teacher. I don't care about the brand of pencil or the style of paper or even the notebook that they carry around. If they want to bring in a tablet . . . "
"I've seen those tablets. The iTabs, right? Kids just use them for entertainment. Let's give them the tools they will need in college and in their careers."
What I want to ask her is, "My students will get married some day, so should we have them choose a spouse or teach them how to relate well to one another? They'll make financial decisions, so should we have them go work in the factories or should we teach them about budgets and financial management?" Instead, I take a more diplomatic tone.
"I promise you that I will provide them with skills that they need right now so that they are prepared for college and career later. The truth is that they are eleven and twelve years old. Sometimes wide-ruled paper is still what they need. Sometimes the simplicity of it helps them to be more creative. Besides, I don't have the money to go out and purchase college-ruled paper."
"Well, I still think they need exposure to professional tools. Let me see what I can do for you."
So, she starts a fundraiser. She works really hard baking pastries that they sell to the community. She walks into my classroom one afternoon with reams of paper. I'm grateful, but still I have this lingering sense that she missed my point entirely. I choose open source paper not just because it's free, but because it works well for some students. It's not about the paper or the pencils or the tablets or the notebooks. It's about the learning.