Stuck in the Middle: The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
At North Saanich, we have a variety of small work spaces that we call breakout areas. These are small rooms or areas with tables, computers and often whiteboards where small groups of students and staff can work. They are fantastic places for learners who need to work in quieter spots with fewer people. Our staff are either working directly with students in these areas or are routinely checking in on them.
In these breakout areas, we leave dry-erase pens on the ledge of the whiteboards for students to use. Once in awhile, we have had a student use the pens inappropriately and of course, this makes us worry. Or as the old proverb goes, “The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.” Of course, we do not want students writing inappropriate words or thoughts, so we have wiped those boards off as quickly as possible. I know the easiest solution would be to remove the pens from these spaces and make students sign them out at the office or get them from their teacher, and we occasionally have to do this for a short period of time, but magic can also happen when you leave the pens.
We often find the students using the pens to be creative with art, words or numbers. It is not unusual to walk into a room with a Happy Birthday message, a creative illustration, or student work on a math problem displayed on the boards. Hey, we might even have the next Will Hunting (The character played by Matt Damon in the movie ‘Good Will Hunting’) at NSMS grab a pen and solve a math problem if we make the pens accessible.
Hiding the pens all the time tells the students we do not trust them. We know that middle school kids mess up sometimes, but we must continually give them opportunities to gain our trust.
This Sunday when I walked into the school and I went to write my name on the sign-in whiteboard in the front hallway I noticed the message left by one of the students. A black pen had been used to write: “Welcome to NSMS!! (It’s a Fun School)”.
At North Saanich Middle School, trusting kids with the dry-erase pens has more benefits than drawbacks. And the Might of the Pen can be Positive. Write on and Right on NSMS!