Mr Jeens, Subject Leader for Maths, Sports teacher and Year 5 form teacher discusses a subject close to his heart: the importance of children having their own fully equipped pencil case and learning to look after its contents, and how this contributes to your child’s preparation for senior school and beyond.
If the pen is mightier than the sword then a well-stocked pencil case is indeed a powerful weapon in your child’s school bag. A pencil case is the handyman’s tool bag of the primary classroom and that rubber that seems to get all trace of pencil off the page is the PTFE tape in every plumber’s pocket. Without a properly stocked pencil case, a child is putting up their first hurdle to making progress – for themselves and their peers.
As a teacher of both maths and sports, I find myself in an excellent vantage point to witness the benefit of preparedness in children. The children who have a mouthguard can play hockey, do the rucking drill or play in the match. Those without cannot. Teams are weakened as players all shuffle up teams to fill the gap made by forgotten kit. Kit can be borrowed, but it will feel unfamiliar and training and progression may suffer. In the classroom, the picture is very similar. As the children diligently write the learning objective and date in their books, those who have a pencil and ruler of their own always finish before those who do not. They are ready to move on and learn, yet for others that moment of time is lost to asking to borrow a ruler from the teacher or a partner. When purple pens come out to improve a calculation or highlighters for analysing a passage of text, the child without is briefly unable to partake of the learning opportunity and their peers lose another moment of their teacher’s time again.
A speech made by Admiral William McRaven of the US Navy made to graduates of the University of Texas is often called to my mind (it did the rounds on social media and is a cracking listen if you simply search for the phrase “make your bed” – it is even the title of his book). While of course there is far broader meaning in the admiral’s speech, this titular phrase really makes me think of the simple tasks we do that open the biggest doors for our day at school. It takes a moment to check a school bag or a kit bag and barely two moments for even a younger child to achieve the same task. By taking pride in our tools, we take pride in the work we do with it – be it handwriting, an illustration or a well-executed pass. Children who value their tools not only use them well but also look after them well – pens last for longer, rulers remain un-shattered and jumpers don’t get lost. All of this can stem from the simplest act.
Having said all this, I am quite confident that at any moment my daughter will spontaneously lose all of her colouring pens. I do recognise the challenges of getting children fed and out of the house on time and I also know that things do get lost or used up or broken. Success in this is not measured in the quantity of Smiggle products adorning your desk (though that itself is a form of pride in your tools), it will likely come in small steps towards being independent of the class stationery drawer or spare kit cupboard. Help your child go to school properly armed for their learning so that we may best help arm them for their future.
A list of the equipment needed by children in Years 3 – 6 can be found in the Information for Parents booklet linked below.