How sharp are your tools?

Last night I had a wonderful opportunity to celebrate one of my dearest friend’s 55-bday. The gathering was small and powerful. Great food. Great company. I even sung along when I knew the words. Peter, Paul, and Mary. Simon & Garfunkle. Every so often the Shy part of me would chase my voice away.
As my friend and I chatted about the party, wrapping the night up, she mentioned that the room was full of women with sharp pencils.
I had never been told my pencil was sharp, and I mentioned this to her. What do I mean, she asked.
I grew up thinking my pencil was on the dull side. From a young child, I got the impression that not much was expected from me or of me. I was smaller and slower. They told me to think about being a veterinarian’s assistant.
What I lacked in stature, I had a surplus of tenacity and determination.
When it came to sports, especially the ones I could give over a hundred percent, I wasn’t about to settle for less. I was willing to put in the time and do the work, though the most important factor was my willingness to try hard. Can I blame it on my German heritage as being stubborn? I hate to lose.
Being athletic was my only sharp tool I possessed. At least that’s what I told myself. Why even try?
During our conversation last night about sharp pencils, my friend reminded me that the story of my dull pencil was a very old story.
The up to date story is that my pencil may not be the sharpest, but with the same determination I found in sports, I found in academics, especially when I became a teacher. I had a hell of a lot to learn before I could become an effective teacher. How could I expect my students to become stellar students if I didn’t know what that looks like?
And in terms of what that looks like, I have to invest in a lot more time and energy to learn something. It’s not bad or good. It is just what it is.
Maybe my being a pickled fetus and subsequent month premature birth didn’t help my cognitive devopment.
But it doesn’t really matter. The cause that is. I didn’t mind putting my heart and soul into sports, but I have been so resistant to do the same with school. I tell my students that it isn’t fair that I have to spend twice as much time on assignments as my peers, but that’s the reality.
Maybe it isn’t a matter of how sharp my pencil is, but how well I can use the pencil.

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One comment

  1. Well, I’m a dull pencil – and always have been! Could never do well enough in school. Was never encouraged to any academic life, just “graduate and then go to work and pay rent” were my orders – never any book reading in my house either growing up. Now I over-compensate with almost a hoarding mentality with my books! Can’t get enough, ever! Being a dull pencil isn’t a bad thing… don’t forget, those sharp pencil tips break easily if you press too hard on them! Dull ones can go on forever it seems.

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