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“I’d really like you to meet with the new hire. She comes highly recommended and we are lucky to have hired her..”

“But?”

“Well, she really needs some help with pencil skills.”

“How can she be an excellent teacher if she can’t use a pencil?”

I already knew the usual responses to this question:

  • She is from a school that didn’t use pencils
  • “Seasoned” teachers like her didn’t learn to use a pencil in their teacher preparation courses at university.
  • She is so busy being an excellent teacher that she just hasn’t had time to learn to worry about “basic stuff” like pencils.

“She comes to us highly recommended by her previous school.”

“Her previous school praised her for her lack of skills?”

“Of course not. That school is not a 1:1 pencil school like ours, so we really cannot blame her for her low pencil skills. She is a seasoned professional who comes to us with lots of qualifications and experience.”

“Did you explain to her that we are a 1:1 pencil school? That every student and teacher on our campus is expected to use the pencils we provide them to improve teaching and learning?”

It felt weird saying that. I know that pencils alone don’t change behavior and attitudes, don’t suddenly provide us with knowledge and insights. It’s what we can learn to do with pencils, slowly and through consistent, deliberate application that will allow us to truly excel at what we do.

“She says that she saw that on our website when she applied for the position. We told her that she will be issued a Dixon-Ticonderoga pencil when she arrives here in August but she told us that all of previous pencil experience is with Faber-Castell pencils. We reassured her that these days pencils have many common features and that her skills should be transferable.”

“That’s true, but you cannot transfer skills that you do not have.”

“This is where you come in: We told her that we have excellent support here at our school. We told her that you provide hands-on training for individuals and small groups, that you are available for one-to-one help, that you can even visit her classes to see how she teaches and where she might be able to integrate pencils into her lessons.”

All of these things we true, of course, but something was bothering me.

“Didn’t her previous school also provide training and support for pencil integration?”

“Of course, why?”