Pencils Across the Curriculum
A Fairy Story
Bryn Jones c
SCENE : It is deep in the past, schools are using chalk and slates, stylus and tablets, chisels and granite. Suddenly a new technology appears:
Once upon a time, the Ministry of Education, after appointing a Special Pencil Task Force and inviting tenders from all the major Pencil manufacturers, gave 16 Pencils to each High School as part of a Special Pencil initiative.
(They also gave ONE Pencil to each Primary School but that's another story!).
This is the story of two of those High Schools.
Opened a New Pencil Centre in a blaze of publicity and housed all 16 Pencils in it. They appointed a Teacher-in-Charge of Pencils.
They were worried that someone might steal these rare and valuable Pencils so they put bars on the windows.
"Special Pencil Centre" signs were painted on the outside wall to tell the world that they were proud of their Pencils and that Pencils are special.
Teachers were not allowed to use Pencils unless teaching a Pencil Studies course - special training was needed to handle these expensive and delicate instruments: teachers needed to understand about Hardness, Length, Handling, Care and Safety (Pencils are very sharp).
Pencil Awareness was introduced as a compulsory course for all Year 8 students - they studied the Applications of Pencils, Pencils in Drawing, Pencils in Writing, the Social Implications of Pencils, Design and Manufacture of Pencils, History of Pencils and Future Trends in Pencils.
10 Pencil Scholarships were offered to local primary students to attract the brightest and best.
One day the Art teacher heard about these new Pencils and thought they could be useful in Art classes but the Pencil Studies teacher explained that all the Pencils were always being used by Pencil Studies classes, and anyway, you need special training to use a Pencil.
The Pencil Studies teacher agreed to do a few lessons on the use of Pencils in Art as part of the Pencil Awareness Course (despite not knowing anything about Art).
"Wouldn't it be better if we had our own Pencils in the Art Dept?" inquired the Art teacher.
"NO, NO, NO! DON'T BE SILLY!" countered the Pencil Studies teacher.
A similar thing happened in Technical Drawing:
"I've heard these Pencils are great for Technical Drawing - really sharp!" and "It sure beats chiselling in granite - can we have some?"
Across the way in English:
"Could we use Pencils do you think? Would they make it easier to create and edit writing?"
"We'll see what we can do," said the Teacher-in-Charge of Pencils, "but it's very hard to fit any more into the Pencils Awareness Course. Besides, all our Pencil teachers are incredibly busy".
In Business Education they got the news:
"Accounts, Letter Writing, Bookkeeping...could pencils have a role to play here?"
Similar things happened in Music/ Theatre Arts/ Home Economics/ Science/ Mathematics/ Library.
Demand for Pencil Studies courses became so great that School A had to spend $100 000 on new buildings to house more Pencil Labs and hired more Pencil teachers.
Meanwhile, back in the Technical Drawing room the stylus and tablet is all they have, in Art, chalk is state-of-the-art and in Business Ed the abacus is all the go.
Tons of granite are consumed daily and a granite recycling programme is introduced.
Five years later School A had 5 Pencil Labs, 6specialist Pencil teachers and half the students doing Pencil Studies courses.
But no-one else in the school ever used a Pencil!
Then one day all the Pencil Studies teachers left to work in private schools and industry!
School B also started with it's 16 Pencils in a special room but they had a PLAN.
The plan was 'THE PENCILS ACROSS THE CURRICULUM PLAN'.
It was a Brave Plan, a Bold Plan, a Problematical Plan - but it was a Good Plan!
They introduced special programmes to lend Pencils to teachers and put a Pencil in each staff office.
They put a few Pencils in the staff room so that staff could play with them at lunchtime.
They paid for teachers to go on Pencil courses.
They even put some Pencils in the Library for ANYONE to use even if they had no training!
"What? Anyone? ", "Oh what problems!"
"Who will sharpen them?"
"Who can understood all the jargon - HB, 2B, 2H?"
"What about quality?"
"What about editing - who will replace the erasers?"
"Who will look after them?"
"What about compatibility problems - 0.2 , 0.5 mm or non-standard leads?"
"Who decides whether to have hexagonal or circular Pencils?"
"What about all these new Pencil technologies which appear with monotonous regularity - who will make decisions?
Well yes, there were a few teething troubles but somehow people coped. After a while they began to realise that Pencils were quite easy to use, even for teachers!
A few Pencils were put in subject areas for teachers to experiment with.
Some teachers were so impressed, they even bought their own Pencils and wondered how they ever managed without one.
There were still major problems to overcome as far as using Pencils in the actual classroom. New discipline and management problems that teachers hadn't faced before. Was it necessary for every student to have a Pencil each or could they share or work in groups?
Would One Pencil per Classroom make a difference?
To begin with, only a few brave teachers used Pencils in their lessons but as time went by more and more teachers saw the amazing work being done by the students of the teachers who used Pencils and they began to ask for some Pencils in their classroom too.
Five years later the school didn't need its Pencil Lab any more except for a few students who wanted to do Pencil Science at University or get a job in the Pencil Industry. There were Pencils all over the school and most staff and students used them quite naturally. Some even carried a pencil about in their pocket.
And what happened to all the Specialist Pencil teachers? Well, they were OK because they had not been idle. They had been hearing about this new thing called a COMPUTER!