Often times visitors show up and ask about the pencils. "How do you keep them so sharp?" or "How do they remain such a bright yellow?" or even "Do they have an eraser capacity?"
They obsessively focus on the texture of the paper or the gloss on the shiny pencils and they miss the beauty that takes place within the seven walls (as a new initiative, our district is trying out hexagon-based learning and has spent money not on raising teacher pay but in creating classrooms that have different spatial features to help ensure creative thinking).
I get used to the pencil talk and have memorized a mantra that involves a smile and a gentle push toward pedagogy. This time, however, a visitor walks in and moves past the pencils. "Show us the plog. Let us see what students are doing." It moves into a discussion about the math problem they had recently finished that had actually involved slates (yes, I still use them).
As the class period progresses, they seem interested mostly in student learning. The pencils and the paper are merely a secondary factor. This gives me hope for pencil integration. Perhaps in another century pencil and paper will be such a normal phenomenon that visitors won't be impressed with the medium but with the way students manipulate it to create their own learning.