My classroom has a pencil problem.
Before the first day of school, in my adorable naivete, I supplied each table in my classroom with a table caddy filled to the brim with pencils, erasers, crayons and a pencil sharpener.
That was my first mistake.
Within weeks, all of those things had disappeared. The pencil sharpeners were broken. The erasers were missing. The pencils had been swept up by the janitor.
That's when the complaints started: "I don't have a pencil." "My pencil is broken." "I don't know what happened to my pencil."
Every afternoon, our pencil monitor sharpens pencils. Every morning, I sharpen a box of pencils. And by second period, all of those pencils are broken, or missing, or both.
Now, I have a few naughty children who simply snap them in half, or use them so inappropriately that they break. And I have those others who simply can't stop sharpening their pencils, even when they are sharp, so they sharpen them until they break or get too tiny to use.
But for the love of God, where are our pencils going? Do my students not know how to use pencils without pressing hard enough to break them? Why, every single day, do I spend half the day dealing with a total effing lack of pencils?
Yesterday, I put new pencil sharpeners on all the tables. This morning? They were all gone. According to many reliable student sources, the culprit was a student who was absent today. "He took all the sharpeners," they took me solemnly. "I saw him. He said not to tell."
Why do I have so many students who think it is acceptable to just take things that they want? I already have William dancing around the pencil sharpener, saying, "I'm going to break it!" I have William blatantly taking things right off my desk or snatching things right out of the hands of other students and then accusing them: "Shut up, you big fat liar! Who asked you? I'm gonna punch you in your head!" (Nice.)
And the one desktop pencil sharpener I bought (again, with my own money) has had a group of children crowded around it constantly, no matter how many times I explain that only one person at a time should be standing near the pencil sharpener.
I've been reduced to begging my students to tell their parents to send them to school with an ample supply of sharpened pencils (and really, is that too much to ask?) or at the very least a pencil sharpener. But I beg of you, other classroom teachers: How do you solve the pencil problem?