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    teaching kids responsible behavior for materials
    By Carolyn

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    I have taught eighth graders, and I am now teaching fifth graders. I believe that both can be irresponsible when it comes to materials. The pencil is the worst of all. "But I don't have a pencil!" is my pet peeve. "But I don't have a pencil!" implies that somehow it's your fault. Isn't THAT ridiculous. Well, what do they want me to do about it? The same holds true for books and notebooks. They can just plain drive you crazy with those, too.

    One policy I finally learned to make was to NEVER hand out a pencil to a kid who needs one. They can beg and barter with other students. Once you, the teacher, hand out a pencil to a student, then it becomes your responsibility to hand out pencils. The kid assumes: "Okay, I don't have a pencil, but Mrs. Smith will give me one." The kids might even become indignant when you don't have any. (Hey, you don't live to buy pencils for kids, even though they think you might.)

    I learned to tell my middle school students that their grade was based in part on having all materials in class. I made deductions in my gradebook when they did not come in prepared. I explained to any parents who wanted to know that this was part of their daily class participation grade. (After all, wouldn't our principal deduct points on our observations if he noted that we weren't prepared?)

    I often started out the year by giving them the example of the surgeon. Let's suppose he's in the operating room operating on the patient. He doesn't have all necessary materials, and he suddenly discovers that he doesn't. So, what does he do? Just leave the patient lying on the operating table bleeding while the nurse runs somewhere else to get the necessary supplies?

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