Friday, August 12, 2011

Sharpen Your Pencil

One of the most common complaints which I heard from teachers was how to handle sharpened pencils.  Thinking about a saying I recently read, I think the manner in which you allow your children to sharpen their pencils has to do with your value on life and faith.  Let me explain.

  Some teachers allow their children/students to sharpen their pencils whenever they wanted.  I fell into this category when I taught, though I did have one rule.  When I was teaching a lesson, you could not sharpen your pencil.  Other teachers thought I was crazy.  "You just let them sharpen them WHENEVER they want??"  "How can you do that?"  "That's too out of control for me."  "What do you do when they all go over to the pencil sharpener at once?"  (Okay, I did have to address this one.  I ended up with the rule of only one person waiting for the sharpener, which also solved problems of kids congregating around it to talk).  "If you do that, then they won't do anything all day except go sharpen their pencil.  We would never get any work done."  So, while I loved this method, many teachers came up with other ideas.

Some teachers sharpened pencils for the students.  I know of many methods of this kind of control of the pencil sharpener.  Several teachers in recent years would have a huge bucket of sharpened pencils, which the students were allowed to use.  They would then drop an unsharpened pencil into another bucket, which the teacher would sharpen at breaks or after school and would return to the "sharpened" bin.  Other teachers kept the pencil sharpener behind their desks, berating students who either hadn't used their pencils down to an unusable nub or those who broke their pencils just to get permission to sharpen them.  One teacher said at the beginning of every week, students would get 2 pencils.  They had the time they walked in from breakfast until the bell rang to sharpen both pencils.  If they didn't get it done, well, tough.  They just wouldn't have a pencil.  (As a sidenote, I noticed that this method did not last more than a few days). Having complete control of the pencil sharpener was the best option for some teachers.

Finally, other teachers left it completely up to the students how they kept their pencils sharpened, as long as it did not interrupt class.  This method is different from the first because these teachers did not provide a pencil sharpener or provide time to sharpen the pencil.  The students had to either bring a lot of pre-sharpened pencils to school or bring their own pencil sharpeners (which became a very valuable commodity on the class "black market" - meaning they were frequently stolen from desks, leaving that student with no means to sharpen a pencil, or possibly no pencil if that was also stolen).  This type of teacher was the kind which I never understood.  They claimed that they were the least restrictive, and yet they provided nothing to help their students, including no pencils for those whose personal method did not work and left them with no choice but to borrow or to steal from others.

What was it I read that got me thinking of these methods?  This quote:

"Life without God is like an unsharpened pencil - it has no point."

 What is your method of allowing your child to sharpen his "pencil" of faith? 

Are you like the teachers who control exactly when and how they learn about and communicate with God?  Allowing your child limited access to God during Sunday School or church meeting times?  Possibly only learning about or praying to God if your child is upset enough about something or needy enough about something?  Is reading the Bible something that is good to do within a very limited time of day or week?  Is prayer something only a priest or minister can do?

Or are you the type of teacher who says that your child has complete freedom to learn about and talk to God whenever he wants just won't provide the means of doing so.  This type of teacher does not plan on reading the Bible with their child, does not plan on praying for their child, does not even attend church more than special holidays or occasions, if they go then, but somehow thinks they are allowing their child the freedom to choose.  In actuality, you are severely limiting your child to the point they either sit and do nothing about their faith, borrow someone else's faith by visiting many religious institutions but never really committing to any, or they steal someone else's faith by sitting back and insulting their beliefs until the other person either cuts the friendship or (even worse) gives up on their own valuable faith in God.

Or, are you like the first pencil sharpener - you allow your children access whenever they want, except possibly if you are in the middle of another lesson (having your child stop a math lesson because they want to hear the story of David and Goliath again could get distracting).  If your children are arguing too much, are you sitting them all down and going to Matthew 18 to see how we should treat our brothers (and sisters)?  Do you say a quick prayer of praise if something good (especially if it's unexpected) comes your way?  Are you providing your child with ways to sharpen their faith whenever they feel that they need to?  I hope so. 

Myself, I'm trying to be like the teacher who allows my child to sharpen her faith when she needs to.  I'm not always true to it, and there are times when she needs to read a particular verse in the Bible because it fits perfectly with a trial she is facing, but I am too much in a rush and I just "sharpen it for her" - meaning I either say the quote quickly and move on without giving her time to think, or I just direct her to something else without allowing her to sharpen her own faith.  I am trying, because my daughter's faith is much more valuable than any pencil or pencil sharpener could ever be.  I want her to get the full point of life, and that only comes with faith in God.

1 comment:

  1. I like this analogy! I'd like to think I'm the kind of teacher that allows my child to sharpen her pencil/faith when she needs to, as well as providing specific opportunities to do so - like church and other activities.