Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lending Supplies

"You came to class unprepared...?"

That's what I say to students when they tell me that they don't have paper or they don't have a pencil (or both).  Unfortunately, only once did the student appear worried after my statement.  The rest of the time, the students have some long, drawn-out explanation as to why they don't have their materials.

What to do, then, when a student doesn't have the required materials?  This is my problem, because if the student isn't doing the assignment, he will find a different way to entertain himself, and that usually involves some form of misbehavior.

After I utter the above phrase, many times a neighboring student will offer to lend the missing item.  I thank that student and make sure that the unprepared student thanks the peer as well.  Problem solved.  If only it was always that easy.

I don't carry extra supplies with me.  I don't make it a habit to lend out paper.  I don't want to become the sub that always has an extra pencil for the students.  Besides, my bag is heavy enough.  I don't need to lug around extra stuff for students.  And I don't want to constantly replace the stuff that I won't get back.

So, when they don't have their materials, it is a problem.

I also try not to lend out the full-time teacher's supplies.  Unless the teacher left out stuff with that intent, I have to assume that the students are expected to have their stuff.  But sometimes the students say that the teacher does lend out pencils.  They could by lying, but I can't know that for sure.

The next best thing is to make sure that I get the lent pencil back.

It's so easy to forget who has what.  At the end of a period, it's also easy to forget that something was lent out.  So, it's best to ask for collateral up front (or "something of value" to those that don't know what collateral means).

Some days I can get quite the collection.  Things like mp3 players (which they're not supposed to have at school), cell phones, and wallets are great.  I know they'll remember to return the pencil.  I've had students leave a whole backpack.  A student ID is okay.  They won't necessarily remember that they left it with me, but I know who left it, and I can remind them.

I think my favorite thing to ask for is a shoe.  The kid won't forget to get a shoe back.  But most middle school teachers don't like the idea.  Middle schoolers without shoes?  Middle school classrooms tend to stink anyway.  That makes it so much worse.  But most students balk at the shoe idea anyway.  They find something else for me.

Most days, the student without supplies finds a way to get the work done (or at least looks like she's working).  But not all days.

Sometimes I shake my head and walk away.  Sure, it's better to keep the student busy.  But when all else fails, I can always write up a misbehaving student and kick her out of class.  The referral starts with, "Student came to class without materials, and then..."

Luckily, most days this is only a minor issue.

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