Sharpeners and schnerbles

pencil markus-spiske-1403572-unsplashIt’s an odd time of the year to talk about back-to-school shopping, but here goes.

When I left teaching, one of the most difficult parts for Tim was the absence of school-supply-shopping frenzy. Starting in late June, he began his hunt for the next great sale of crayons or spiral notebooks. His greatest joy was finding ridiculous prices on pencils, pens, and Sharpies.

I went off to school each year armed with hundreds of pencils. Pens by the bagful. And deep purple, green, red and black sharpies and Flairs.

My students knew all about Mr. Wolfe’s generosity. They benefitted from his love of writing tools – and snacks – on a daily basis.

On that last day, I brought home a treasure trove of pencils, pens, and markers .

That was almost four years ago and we still have enough pencils to go around several times. So, when I started Morning Pages, as suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, what better way to use what I have than to write every morning with pencil?

I like it! It’s a different feeling than pen, the lead scraping over the surface of the page, leaving an uneven gray line, with the soft scratch of an old 45 record.

I also discovered something more than making due with what we already have. It’s not a big thing. It’s not new or revolutionary. Say it with me:

Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in her shoes.

There are very few teachers who will not agree that pencil sharpening is right up there with fingernails on a chalkboard and sneezing into your hand.

Oh, good golly, Miss Molly just STOP!!!

Incessant grinding with one of those little stamp-sized sharpeners is more than annoying. It’s disruptive and distracting. And don’t even get me started on all the schnerbles smudging up the desk…

It is simply and altogether unnecessary.

Or so I thought.

It took me no longer than two days of Morning Pages to discover: Writing with a dull pencil is far more difficult than writing with a fresh point.

I kid you not. Try it. Get yourself an old stub of a pencil and try writing more than a grocery list or I’ll be right back to stick on the fridge. It is unbelievably hard. And I don’t mean a little unpleasant. I mean hard… and almost impossible to erase.

Yep, it took me exactly two days to find out that my students were so right. Given that they were writing almost everything with pencil, it’s no wonder they wanted a nice sharp point. It’s no wonder they would do anything to make their work easier, more tolerable, less grinding – especially for a subject they aren’t that good at. They were just trying to get through the day, no matter what was happening behind the scenes of their lives.

So I just want to put it out there for y’all to consider with me.

Maybe, a lot of things we fret about are just none of our business.

I’m not saying we can’t have an opinion. Or that we can realistically stop ourselves from sneaking a peak through some pretty judgmental lenses. Because, please…

We don’t need a good dose of sackcloth and ashes (although we could all probably use at least a short time out). But we can’t live our own lives to the fullest while we attempt to keep the world’s sharpeners and schnerbles in line.

My lovelies, we don’t have to give up our sharp pencils or ignore our pet peeves. And we don’t have to live according to everyone else’s pencil sharpening rules or schedule. We are who we are and sneezing into your hand really can spread germs.

But if we’d take a sec and walk in her shoes or write with his pencil or go to work every ding-dang day even with what may be happening behind the scenes… well, we may see things with better understanding and a whole lot more compassion.

We might even become Champions of Pencil Sharpening for the whole ding-dang world.



Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s