When I was approached by @Pen_Heaven about the #backtobasics challenge, I’ll be honest, at the words, “we will send you a free fountain pen”, I was pretty much sold. Abiding closely to the girly, female English teacher stereotype, I am a lover of all things stationery, and have wasted a LOT of time drooling over things in Paperchase which I literally cannot live without.
I am dyslexic, and have always struggled with my own handwriting. For years students have found my scrawl difficult to read, and so over the summer holidays this year, I tasked myself with re-training myself to write so that my script is both legible and vaguely attractive. Switching to a good quality fountain pen over the last week has noticeably accelerated my progress, making my script more fluent and smooth.
In terms of my day to day teaching, by far the most hand writing I do is marking student work. Marking is incredibly time consuming and, while it is invaluable to student engagement and progress, it is not something I look forward to! I’ve noticed that, with my new pen, I’ve been far keener to mark students’ work because of greater levels of comfort and fluidity when writing. I’m not sure how much of this is due to the novelty factor or not (I am easily excited by fads…), but anything which makes marking more bearable is fine by me!
In the past I have always favoured an erasable pen when marking in English, partly because, because of my dyslexia, I often misread work and need to correct myself. I’ve had to be far more careful using a non-erasable pen, and part of me wonders whether I have been sloppy in the past because I have been able to correct myself easily; this week I have marked more slowly initially, but have not had to waste time going back to fix my own errors, because my initial marking was far more considered and accurate. One small issue has been that sometimes I have smudged my writing in students’ books because the ink doesn’t dry as quickly as I work!
I believe that a good quality pen really changes the comfort, neatness and attitude of the writer. I wonder whether a pilot scheme, giving better pens to a group of students and following their progress, might have value. In the past, I have taught in a private school where students were obliged to write in blue fountain pen – there was a higher quality of handwriting here, but I cannot say how far this was due to a different economic background and education system. At the other extreme, the school equipment which is aimed at ow income families is generally incredibly cheap and of low quality. Pencils, pens, rubbers, sharpeners etc. tend to break very easily, and I am sure this has an impact on student attitudes to work. I wonder whether better quality equipment would change the quality of student presentation in exercise books, and their general sense of pride about their work?
In conclusion, I will certainly be using this pen (the Diplomat Esteem Lapis Fountain Pen in black) for the foreseeable future – I have enjoyed the whole physical process of writing with a better quality pen, and I think my marking looks better. As a Lead Practitioner, my marking is sometimes used as a model for other staff – I now have a script to be (slightly) proud of! I remain intrigued to know how writing equipment might impact on student attitudes to work; this might form part of some action research in my classroom in the near future…
Click here to see other teachers’ stories on the the full @Pen_Heaven #backtobasics blog post!