© 2013 . All rights reserved. Science Hamster with Magnet

Getting to the Point

Students in Blue Jeans

Kids.  Almost a hundred of them.

Unsharpened Pencils

Pencils.  So many pencils.


Friction.   Wearing down those pencils.   Pencils that need to be sharpened.

It’s a bigger problem than you might imagine. There are the regular old crank pencil sharpeners.  This Old Crank has been through more of those than I can count. I’ve tried various versions of electric sharpeners.  They work great.  If you are into noise.  Which I’m not.  At least not during morning announcements.  Or when I’m trying to talk to someone.  Or hear someone talk to me.   Or hear myself think.  They are really noisy!   When they work.  They break.  Jam up.  Wear out.  The noise problem is solved.  But it’s hard to do your homework with a nub.  Small hand-held pencil sharpeners carried by each student solved the noise problem, but in exchange we got pencil shavings.  On the floor.  In their bags.  On the tables.

My school has a lot of nice equipment.

Computer labs.

Computer Lab

Document cameras.  Interactive white boards.

document camera

But what I really wanted was a pencil sharpener.  Not just any sharpener.  This one.

When my homeroom class found out about this burning desire of mine they developed a plan.  One of my budding young leaders suggested that they should start collecting the funds for this fabulous tool in an effort to make my dreams come true.  Within minutes we had repurposed the plastic coffee container that formerly housed a strange looking larva (read about it HERE) into a savings account for “Mrs. Massingill’s Pencil Sharpener”.

I have the greatest class:)

By my birthday a month later we had reached the amount needed to order the much-longed- for device.   (I actually ordered this one from Amazon, thinking it was the same one, though now I see on the Classroom Friendly Supplies website that they do not sell on Amazon, so I guess I got another brand.  But that’s another story.)   Later that week the sharpener had taken its place in my classroom;  new, blue, ready to do its job.

Life Color Pencil Sharpener

Blue pencil sharpener

Oh! the joy.

Lewis and Clark’s first view of the Pacific after two years of journeying up rivers and over mountains could not have produced more excitement than seeing our long-awaited, beautiful blue pencil sharpener.  And the look on the face of each student when their sharpened pencil was removed from the sharpener and held up for examination was pure amazement.  I so wish I would have taken video of those expressions!

Sharpened Pencil

Now that’s a good story, but here is the real point.

Our school has a lot of great stuff.


Library Books on the Shelf




You name it, it has been supplied to us.  For some even the breakfast and lunch they eat in the school cafeteria.  Just there, through no effort of our own, taken for granted.  Like manna from heaven.

School Cafeteria Table

But we bought that pencil sharpener.  Paid for it ourselves.  And that changes everything.

Pencil About to Be Sharpened

Coins that could have been spent on ice cream or chips or any number of things were instead stuffed inside a plastic coffee can.  Rather than instant gratification of a craving, many had chosen to deny themselves that momentary pleasure and use their resources to obtain something we needed, something they thought would make me happy.

And along the way it seems to have made them very happy. 

Sharpened pencil gets the thumbs up

My class is proud of that pencil sharpener.

Blue Pencil Sharpener

They are very interested in the care and upkeep of this device.  They shared ideas about guidelines for its use, and even made the difficult decision to share it with the other classes that have science in my room. The decision was made:  the others can use it, with certain guidelines in place, but there is a strong expectation that those that use it will respect the effort it took to make the purchase possible.

There’s a lot of learning going on in my room.  I do my best to cover the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for science.  Properties of matter, mixtures and solutions, forces and motion…

Toy Truck for  Motion Experiment

So many lessons.

Science Hamster with Magnet

But some of the best ones don’t show up in my lesson plan book.

Pencil in Sharpener

The best things in life are not free.

Pencil and sharpener

Nothing is really free.

Sharpening a Pencil

Giving requires sacrifice.  Sharing with others involves risk.  Making others happy can make you happy too.

Sharpening a pencil

And a good pencil sharpener can change your perspective on life.


formerly known as the “Old Crank”


  1. Vicki
    Posted 4 Nov ’13 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Laura Nell,
    You have such a way with words (and pictures, too)! You made me cry a little–the kids are really sweet. It is amazing what happens when they give a little of themselves for a goal–also inspirational for all of us!

    • Posted 4 Nov ’13 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Vicki! I wish we had more time for moments like our “team meeting” that day when they cooked up this plan. It was an amazing thing to see them coming up with ideas and encouraging each other. The days are just so fast and furious.

      Thanks for the things you do for our kids every day.

  2. Elaine
    Posted 5 Nov ’13 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Laura-what a sweet story-kids will do anything to help others-if you just give them a chance. I know they are proud of their accomplishment and I can see how proud you are of them. A life lesson they will never forget. Thank you for loving these children and teaching them something outside of the book.

Post a Reply to Vicki

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>