an honest question to you

I have one particular student that is really making me question every ethical belief I have.
I so badly want to kick him with all the strength that my 5'1" self can muster.

Here's the situation:
Class starts.
The warm-up is always projected when the students come in. Every day.
Everyone is working on the warm-up, except for him.
I ask him, "Why aren't you doing the warm-up?"
Him: "What? What warm-up?"
I point at the front of the classroom while I keep my eyes locked on him.
Then he acts genuinely surprised that there is a warm-up on the board!
Him: "Oh! I didn't know!"

A few minutes later, he's still doing nothing.
Me: "What are you supposed to be doing?"
Him: "I don't have a pencil."
Me: "You know where to find extra pencils. On the back counter in the blue cup."
Him: "Oh, okay."

Then--next activity.
Me: "Why aren't you taking notes?"
Him: "I don't have a pencil."
Me: "What happened to the one you used for the warm-up?"
Him: "I lost it."
what? how do you lose a pencil in five minutes?
But it's not worth me stopping the whole class every day to have him search for a pencil.
So I tell him to go grab another one from the back.

This same conversation happens every day, five times a day.
I always ask him, "How did you write in your last two classes?"
Him: "I didn't have to write anything."
Me: "Well, I know that's not true.  I'm good friends with your English teacher--we talked about YOU and she said you always borrow a pencil in her class.  What happened to the one you borrowed from her today?"
Him: "I lost it."

Someone strangle me!
(or him..)
What the heck is he doing with all of these pencils?
Is he saving them up to build a house or something?
Because if he his, I'm sure I've financed a whole first floor worth of pencils.

I should also mention that I have devoted so much time and energy with this student.
I'm invested in a lot of students--but I really feel invested in him.
At the end of last term, he had an F--a 37%.
I told him that if he took a test he was missing and actually tried on it, then I would pass him.
I sat down with him for 2.5 hours.
I studied with him.
I gave him all of the answers!
The next day, he came to take the test.
And I caught him looking at his phone for all of the answers.
I almost cried.
C'mon, we worked SO hard together!
We talked it out, and he understood that I couldn't pass him.

My question to you: how do I solve my daily dilemma with him!?
important note: this student has no special accommodations.
he is a perfectly functioning child, who is just perfectly lazy.

Solution A: I give him one pencil a day.  If he loses the pencil, then too bad.
Problem to Solution A: is it more important for him to take notes and participate than to sit doing nothing so that I can prove a point?

Solution B: I give him a pencil every time he needs one.
Problem with Solution B: Am I just holding his hand? Am I teaching him anything about responsibility? Everyone else comes prepared--why can't he? Plus, he is emptying my little blue cup of all the pencils, so the kid who comes prepared 99% of the time won't have a pencil on the off-chance he forgets his today.
and remember: on average, he takes THREE pencils a day.
that's a FACT!

Solution C: I never give him a pencil.
Problem with Solution C: Again, what's more important? Him doing the work? Or trying to teach him responsibility?

I feel like I've tried all of these solutions, only to be frustrated all over again.
Someone give me another solution, or help me realize why one of the above solutions is better than the others.
ah geesh, these teenagers.
I love them to death.
but that death may come a lot earlier than anticipated...
because of them.
I'm aging by the minute!

sooo...solve my problem?


  1. Not that I am a professional or anything like that, but it sounds like he must have issues at home, or issues in general. He probably #1 does this to get attention #2 hasn't been taught work ethic by his parents #3 he just doesn't care about his future, because he doesn't think he's going anywhere.

    Those are just my opinions from people I have observed in my life. This is sad. I think you should bring it up with the principal if you haven't already. I don't think you should baby him. I think you can give him one pencil a day, and if he loses it, then too bad, if he fails the class too bad. He needs to learn that in the real world, people aren't going to give you a pencil everytime you lose one. As hard as that may be to actually do.

    Good luck :)

    1. I have the same thoughts! Thanks for your input, it means a lot!

  2. Children!!!!!! Goodness! I wonder if he has never really liked your subject or hasn't been good at it, so he feels like he's defeated before he tries doing any work.

    Part of me just wants to say go with the solution B answer. But here is another idea: I would have a special cup in the room that are "his" pencils, but he has to give me something for having to check one out--a cell phone for the period, his phone charger, earbuds, etc. Then, if he wants to get his stuff back, he has to bring you back your pencil. Every time that exchange happens you could talk about WHY he is having to borrow one again, and why you feel it's important, how he is expected to work in your class if he wants to stay in it, etc. I did this with my 7th graders when I was student teaching and it worked well--you'd think that high schoolers would get it by now! :)

    1. LOVE this idea! Hopefully it will work on him--he's such a little punk! haha

  3. wow. i have no idea how you are a teacher.... you must have a LOT of patience :) haha i could never do it! you are amazing! and i wish i had advice... but im obviously just a rookie freshman. good luck!

    xx, keena

  4. i have a student exactly like that. plus he likes to talk out of turn every 5 seconds and makes noises. if you find a good way to deal with yours, let me know the secret lol

  5. So. I come from a different background (college counseling) than teaching, but here's where I fall on this... and hear me out. The solution (for me) is B. I hear counselors tell kids (and each other) that they need to learn responsibility, so if they don't request documents (transcripts, rec letters, whatever) by a certain date, too darn bad. ...hold that thought. Wait, what?! We're going to punish kids?

    I run a program in a POOR school district that is 96% minority and probably 90% low-income. They have bigger problems at home and the fact that they show up at all is a darn miracle. That's where I think this kid is coming from. I don't believe in punishing kids. I get it - they need to be responsible. But, if we don't help them be successful now, they're definitely not going to have the opportunity to be successful later. Give him the pencil, continue being the amazing teacher you are (hello - studying together! AMAZING.) and believe in him. He'll act better if he sees that you care. Kids like that check out because they feel like no one cares about them. And when they feel that way - they become their own worst enemy and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

    You're doing the right thing. Buy cheap pencils. Love the kid. Know that this is bigger than pencils. And pray for patience.

    And know that I totally get your feelings of frustration... but... he needs the pencil.