Monday, April 10, 2017

Give Them a Pencil

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this space for me to share my corner of the world.

Saturday morning I had the privilege of listening to Ruth Ayres present at the EdCollabGathering, a series of online PD sessions.  She talked about students who come from trauma, the significance of giving a student a pencil and the filling of a student's need.  I have heard parts of this presentation before, but hearing it again Saturday tore at my heart.

I have had students whose home lives I knew were not good.  They didn't sit down to family dinners.  They didn't have parents who tucked them in at night or saw to it that they ate a good breakfast before sending them off to school.  Sometimes, they didn't even see their parents in the morning.  They didn't understand the definition of a family or a loving relationship.

I have had students who didn't want to go home after school, dreaded the weekends, and hated Christmas break.  Some have come from abuse of all kinds.  At times I have avoided sending home behavior notices or making phone calls to parents for fear of what would happen when they arrived at home.

I knew the last thing they thought about was having a pencil.

Each day my students arrive at my door, and I am given a gift.  The gift to inspire minds, to challenge thinkers, to motivate unbelievers.

But with this gift also comes a huge responsibility.  Our students come to us and expect to learn, to be respected, and to feel safe.

And many times they need a pencil.

At the end of each day, we tell them "Goodbye! See you tomorrow!"  And we assume that we will.

Last week in our community, a five year old little boy said goodbye to his teacher when school was out.  He didn't see her the next day because he never returned.

I know evil exists in this world.  I read about it in the newspaper, and I watch it unfold on television every day.  This week evil found its way into my hometown and took the life of this little boy.

This evil was his father.

This evil one tried to smother him with a pillow, wrapped a cord around his neck, and when that didn't work, he placed his 300 pound body on top of him until he stopped breathing.  According to the newspaper, he had planned it all.

Teachers, school officials, and neighbors report abuse, but sometimes reporting seems to not be enough. When tragedy like this happens, many questions surface, and teachers go through so many "what ifs."  Guilt consumes, and blame is thrown about like candy in a parade.  But in this case, no one is to blame but the evil one.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness and preventing child abuse.  It is a time to take a step back and not only identify those needs, but to try and fill them as well.

And maybe it is time we give them a pencil.


  1. Oh, Leigh Anne. Just heart breaking. I love your words: "Each day my students arrive at my door, and I am given a gift." Thank you for this reminder. They are each a gift to me. Prayers to you and your community. And, yes, let's keep passing out the pencils.

  2. I watched that session too and was struck by the idea. I've been so frustrated at my students lack of responsibility with school supplies but recently decided to just make more supplies available and stop stressing about it. Ruth's presentation convinced me that was the right thing to do. The story about the little boy- I have no words. I have my own kindergarten son and cannot fathom how a father could do such a thing. Prayers for him, his teacher, his classmates and the entire community.

  3. Oh Leigh Anne, I am so sorry! I have no words about what that monster did to that sweet child. As hard as this was to read, I'm glad you're telling his story. Every day we walk into the classroom, we have a choice. I will always "give them a pencil". Sending prayers and hugs to you, my friend.

  4. It is so hard to imagine evil like that, to want to end a little child's life. I'm so sorry for you all, and of course for that child, and others who live fear-filled lives. Teachers can give love and safety at school, yet they also know the children must go home at night, on weekends. Your use of the pencil as metaphor is beautiful, Leigh Anne.

  5. This is an incomprehensible. And because of that it is so important to realize that this possibility exists for our students. Thank you for sharing this. We can not give too much. Tears and prayers for your community.

  6. We never know what has happened in students' lives away from us. I'm sure there are some who live in a nightmare and we know nothing about it, they hide it so well. A pencil or paper is the least of their concerns.

  7. Thank you for this BRAVE post today . . .

  8. Oh my, heartbreaking. This kind of thing happened years ago at our school, a first grader, and the teacher had reported but it wasn't enough to save his life. Are you on Voxer? There is a story I'd like to share with you?

  9. Stories like this make me wonder why such people are given the precious gift of a child while those who would truly cherish such a life are denied the gift. My heart aches.

  10. Oh my. I'm so sorry. I agree with Linda, your use of the pencil metaphor is tremendous. I want to send you all my pencils...much love to you.

  11. I read this because I listened to Ruth's wonderful edcamp this past weekend and recognized the title as part of her talk. This is a very real reminder of how our students need us to not be so rigid and to listen because we don't know what their lives are truly like. So so sorry.

  12. Oh, Leigh Anne, I'm so sad and sorry you and all the people in your community have to have this memory. God be with you all, and those close to the little boy. This was not an easy post for you. Thank you for sharing this corner of your world. I'm going shopping for pencils today.