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"I've not got a pen" strategies

Discussion in 'Supply teaching' started by ellenlilymay, Jan 28, 2020.

  1. ellenlilymay

    ellenlilymay New commenter

    HI everyone again!

    This may sound like a petty complaint compared to others (I have others!) but I am sick to death of handing out my personal pens when doing supply work.

    In any given lesson there are usually about 3 students who have not brought a pen. If I do not have a spare to give them (which 50% of the time I don't get back due to breakage or they take it with them) then they sit there moaning that they can't do any work without a pen.

    I am at my wits' end because although I acquired a decent supply of free pens and old pens at home, I'm now running out and I REFUSE to buy pens out of my scant supply pay (supply hasn't been very prolific this year so far) simply because they can't be bothered to bring a pen themselves.

    Worse still, kids sit their dismembering their own pen(s) to get ink over their hands so they can leave the room to "wash their hands" and send messages to other kids in the classroom.

    Does anyone have any strategies on how to deal with this? I've told them to ask other kids for pens (blank stares) and of course there are never spares in the classroom ....???? Many thanks! Apologies again for the triviality of this post.

    (PS watch out for the scam whereby kids rub their biros violently between their hands, and eventually the ink heats and explodes, providing the ideal opportunity of escaping to the toilet to text their friends.)
  2. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    No, it is not petty; it is galling.
    This one works well.
    Start with,say, ten nice pens. Get a sign out sheet, which you keep with you on an ongoing basis.Just a piece of paper with five columns-"name", "item" "date" "signature" and "returned undamaged?"
    Don't even explain your system to each group.
    Kids wants a pen? "Of course!". And then get them to sign it out. And fill in all relevant columns
    Kid failed to return pen? Pursue them later in the day, bearing your sign out sheet. Tell them you need your pen or a similar pen in same condition by the end of the day, or you will send a copy of your sheet and an invoice home to their parents. They will deliver. They really do. And if anybody fails to return repeatedly, bill the school. Seriously. Their kids have signed to the fact they have your property.

    Asking for a pen is not always to fulfill the need for a pen. it is a challenge to you to teach them, to prevent you, to hinder you, to prove that they are too disabled to work. If you then introduce a layer of bureaucracy into it and the threat of recourse, they magically either find a pen in their bag, or source one from a friend.
    Once they know your system, just occasionally a kid will genuinely need to use the sheet. It's actually quite sweet to see them respect it, which in turn gives you a chance to thank them.
    Yoda-, ellenlilymay, MathMan1 and 4 others like this.
  3. ms honey

    ms honey Occasional commenter

    I'm primary, can't you just give them a pencil? Not your own though, from a store cupboard?
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  4. rosievoice

    rosievoice Star commenter

    HB pencil. If they aren't mature enough to remember to bring their own writing implements then they will have to write with a "baby" pencil.
    Stiltskin and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  5. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    in primary, the children stay put all day. In secondary they have the opportunity to lose their pen every time they change lesson. It is easy to get through 50 loans in a day.

    @ellenlilymay it isn't trivial at all, it is a form of pack behaviour and bullying of supply staff. I have heard of a teacher demanding a shoe to hold hostage for the safe return of the pen, but that is a bit risky! Personally, I just set an immediate detention, and ring home .
    ellenlilymay, 23741589 and tonymars like this.
  6. tonymars

    tonymars Established commenter

    Yes, but, as a supply, a detention and call home ?!
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  7. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    why wouldn't you??
    if you are going to see a class more than once, then by the time they come in for the second time, they should know that their little lives will be that little bit happier if they are clutching a pen in their little hand..

    Of course, if you only ever see a class once, there is little you can do, except rely on the school policy, and if it is upheld.
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  8. tonymars

    tonymars Established commenter

    Because any sanction might upset the kid and you probably be told not to return.
  9. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    well, that a decision for individuals to make,

    sit in a vortex of chaos and confusion, take the money and keep coming back for more- a perfectly valid choice, if the school isn't going to uphold a discipline policy

    not to come back to schools that don't let you issue sanctions, also a valid choice.

    It is going to depend on availability of work, financial situation, and how much it is impacting on your mental health and quality of life.

    If you are able to tolerate the abuse, and basically take money for nothing, then why not. It isn't your loss.

    No teacher can "control" a class unless there is a school wide behaviour policy in place AND in use.

    Like one soldier can't defend a country, without an army and a defense policy in place
    ellenlilymay, sbkrobson and tonymars like this.
  10. lizziescat

    lizziescat Star commenter

    My strategy to I haven’t got a pen?

    ‘No, I have a deal with WH Smith. They don’t do reaching. I don’t do pens’

    and then, (this is crucial) in the same breath continue with your explanation etc (whilst they’re still working out what you’ve just said.)
    9/10 times they got a pen** from their neighbour (that’s now the class mated problem.)
    It didn’t take long for them to remember or own replacement pen before the lesson began.

    Strategy 2
    Employed, very rarely and usually yr 11, for when a high level behaviour incident was looming, usually with a known ‘name’ or those who always ‘tested the water’.
    I would, then, rummage around briefly in my desk. ‘
    No, I can’t find one.’ All I’ve got is this’ I give them a blunt very old and preferably chewed, pencil.
    Have you got a pencil sharpener’
    and again move on very quickly so as not to prolong the drama./attention etc.
    At this point, a pen was miraculously discovered in their bag or loaned by their friend.

    Goodness knows how I survived over 30 years

    ** the other time the TA ( completely missing the point) would give them a pen but that’s another issue.
    pepper5, Lara mfl 05 and Jesmond12 like this.
  11. Deirds

    Deirds Senior commenter

    I have worked in a school which had a policy of “Give them a pen, no comments or questions”. Generous stock available, to be fair.

    What a nightmare! 2 Year 9 classes would have several asking for pens. Every time I turned to the smart board there would be a volley of pen lids...

    I was asked not to return when I told the HT I couldn’t control them (3rd SLTin lesson, first at start of lesson, second on call “they seem fine to me”,)

    It depends what mood I’m in and if I think they’re being genuine whether I lend a pen. I tend not to bring any with me at the moment. Scrounge 1 from desk, collect from floors, etc. Most can manage...
  12. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    pepper5 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  13. colacao17

    colacao17 Senior commenter

    I saw a tweet earlier this week where someone claimed that giving kids pencils similar to this made them bring their own in future
  14. historygrump

    historygrump Star commenter Forum guide

    I usually go to the £ shop and get 10 for a pound, it is the same with pencils, I would not spend a vast amount of money on buying pens. I know some schools check that the students have all the pens, etc and if not it can result a breaktime detention.
    pepper5 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  15. abwdSTEM

    abwdSTEM Occasional commenter

    I used to collect free pens or ones left behind after a class had left. I would hand these out since they hadn't cost me anything but once that supply was exhausted there were no more. I would not hand out items I had paid for myself.

    If that happened to be within the first 10 minutes of the first lesson that that was just too bad. Although usually I could replace these pens at the end of the lesson off the floor or from desks when the class left.
    ellenlilymay and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  16. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    I regularly visit Argos and take a handful of their pencils. Kid without a pen gets a pencil. If you don't have an Argos then visit IKEA.
    bramblesarah likes this.
  17. lovejoy_antiques

    lovejoy_antiques Senior commenter

    One thing I've noticed where I am is exploding pens. I've worked with biros for about forty years now and have never had one explode in my hand. However the kids seem to average about one inky explosion per lesson.
  18. tonymars

    tonymars Established commenter

    Ah yes the pen fiddlers, who continue to fiddle until they explode. I learned very early that this was a sure fire proof of a kid who would cause problems
  19. lizziescat

    lizziescat Star commenter

    ‘Oh but all the other teachers lend me a pen’

    ...... the trouble with having a supply of pens/pencils is it shows that you expect some to be pen less.

    Do you also have spare underpants in case they ‘forgot to get properly dressed’ ? I bet they don't ‘forget’ .
    My refusal to lend pens wasn’t meanness, it was teaching an important life skill of being organised -a pre-learning skill and much more important (at that moment) than simultaneous equations, the treaty of Versailles etc.

    When appropriate, I would point out this useful work skill ie that I am not expected to supply the plumber with his tools to mend the leak - and I wouldn’t pay the £70+ call out fee for his 25 mile round trip if he d forgotten his tools.
    It seemed to work , I had far less ‘forgetting’ than many of my colleagues.

    So giving/not giving out pens is far more significant than spending a few pence on a pen supply.

    I hasten to add that I put a great deal of time into supporting my colleagues by ensuring my tutor group were fully equipped for the day ahead.
    (It’s a shame the school didn’t do the same )
  20. Deirds

    Deirds Senior commenter

    I do make sure they’re returned...I don’t give good pens out, only cheapies...
    pepper5, agathamorse and Lara mfl 05 like this.

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