As I stood chatting with Levi's teacher on the morning of the first day of school, an adorable little girl approached us. She held aloft a perfect, new yellow pencil and asked, "Can I sharpen my pencil?"
"Oh sure, honey," I thought I might hear. "The pencil sharpener is right over there."
Instead the teacher arched an eyebrow and asked, "Do you have a personal pencil sharpener?"
The girl's pigtails quivered. "No," she answered.
"Then you'll have to borrow one," said the teacher, sweetly, but with unmistakable firmness.
That afternoon after school, Levi's first words to me were, "I need mechanical pencils!" Then he launched into a copiously detailed account of all the wonderful ways a mechanical pencil frees you from the need to sharpen a pencil. This then segued into, you guessed it, "And I need a personal pencil sharpener!"
At that moment I realized that his teacher was a girl after my own heart.
I can picture it now. Each day her twenty-three students each asked to sharpen their pencils twenty-three times, generating class-time interruptions and learning disruptions that equaled...well, the math was above anything attempted in the fourth grade. The sound of even the sweetest, "Can I sharpen..." sounded to her like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Finally, she realized it had to stop and devised a clever plan. Next year, she resolved, I will require all students to bring their own pencil sharpener! And I'll encourage them to bring mechanical pencils--they never need sharpening! In a culminating stroke of genius she disassembled the classroom pencil sharpener. As she dumped the offending appliance into the trash she felt a subtle shift in the universe, as if balance had been restored.
So tonight I went to Target and bought a jumbo pack of mechanical pencils--did you know that one mechanical pencil lasts as long as 2.5 old-fashioned wooden ones??--and a handful of personal pencil sharpeners.
Because a girl who devises a system that prevents children from senselessly draining her energy and sanity? I'm with you, sister.