At the beginning of this school year I quickly discovered that my new classroom didn't have a pencil sharpener. This was definitely the low point in a series of steps down.
During my student teaching year, the teacher whose room I was in had an electric sharpener. It was nice to have in the mornings. It was fast and easy, but it was really noisy. And, much to my amazement, I saw the students being rather indiscriminate with what they chose to sharpen in that fancy contraption. I personally would never have sharpened an eye-liner pencil. But, who knows, that may have more to do with the fact that I don't wear eye-liner and so have never experienced that emergency in English class when you need a sharp eye-liner pencil.
When that sharpener broke (OD'd on eye-liner) or the outlets it was plugged into were on the fritz, the students sent up a howl about having to use the one on the wall. It was so much effort after all.
Then last year I was on my own and only had that one mounted to the wall. The problem with it was that it was right by the door and the students had a tendency to knock off the shavings holder as they hustled in and out of the room. By the end of the school year, my hugely-pregnant self was very tired of picking it up off the floor; the semi-permanent pile of shavings wasn't that great either.
Then there was the small fact that it plain stunk as a sharpener. I suddenly understood why they had complained so much the year before. I had a student take a brand new pencil down to a 2-inch nub, not because he was procrastinating on doing his work (honestly), but because the sharpener kept biting off the end of the pencil. I ended up back there with him trying to pry it out. That sharpener definitely needed a new job, preferably one that provided it with more job satisfaction.
This year nothing was in my room at all and while I was happy that students remembered to bring pencils, I was not happy to hear their complaining or to have to go scrounging for pens from my own stash (I think they actually breed in the bottoms of my bags). I was considering whether to buy one after the first week when I found one of those little sharpeners that I remember from elementary school. The kind with a small blade set in plastic with a cone-shaped hole. I've been using it ever since.
At the beginning of the year, the students complained just as loudly as they did when the electric one broke that first year. But, they stopped when they realized it really was all I had and that I use it, too. I think it also helped that I personally sharpened pencils for a bunch of them one day.
Then they started picking up something else about it: this thing sharpens pencils pretty perfectly. This is one seriously good sharpener; it takes pride in its work. I've yet to have a student spend the whole class sharpening their pencil and they sharpen the pencil over the trash can so their are no shavings on the floor (usually).
It's been a bit of a miracle that I've never lost it. It's been near the perilous clutter of my desk and loaned to students who "return" it to unusual places. Really? With the glue sticks? Really?
I started thinking about all of this today after I had a student walk in at the beginning of lunch from her math room across the hall and ask to borrow my sharpener knowing full well what she was asking for. Who knew such a little thing would be so great!
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