Department Meeting by William Martin

Please consider the varied future implications of a ‘hard’ pencil.

I debated on whether to put this in the blog portion of my website or the ‘short story’ part. Maybe it’s a matter of determining audience. Who knows? In any case, here is what I worked on during my weekend. I hope you enjoy.

The Department Meeting

“Okay, so it looks as though we’re all here, which is great, because it means we can adhere to our communal agreement to honor each other’s time. Susan, could you please record the individual names of those who are present?”

“Um, okay, but didn’t you just say that everyone was here?”

“Yes, Susan, but it needs to be recorded for the current meeting minutes.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Also, we should point out in the minutes that Susan is taking meeting notes and Bill has volunteered to keep time, so that we stay on track with the meeting topics and honor everyone’s time.”

“But what if we stray from the meeting topics to clarify other aspects that invariably come up when we attempt to discuss an issue?”

“Susan, please take note that Fred has introduced another topic for consideration, which we will address as time allows when we’ve completed our current agenda.”

“But that doesn’t address the immediate consideration of allowing us to explore varied opinions and concerns in regards to our current meeting agenda.”

“Fred, we haven’t even started the meeting proper yet, but you seem to have an issue in regards to our proceedings, which we all agreed upon at our last meeting. Do you have an issue you’d like to bring up at a future meeting?”

“Um, no. Never mind. I’m okay.”

“Good, then we’re able to proceed without further interruption…although if you feel the need to interrupt the meeting with other thoughts or input, we’re more than willing to stop and consider any and all input, even though it may extend our time frame, which will not honor our agreement in respecting each other’s time. Now, the first item on our agenda has to do with the school-wide policy on pencils.”

“I’m a little confused as to how ‘pencils’ are on our department’s agenda.”

“Bob, this has been a district wide concern that each department and each individual within that department should have concern over.”

“But aren’t pencils just pencils?”

These are no ordinary pencils
These are no ordinary pencils

“Bob, as you were informed of via email and in the email reminder of meeting minutes and the copy of those concerns placed in your mail box as you came in this morning, and the email immediately prior to this meeting, pencils are a very important issue within our department and within every department in the school. It literally reflects our school district’s policy and communication to the general public.”

“I guess that’s where I’m a bit confused. Aren’t pencils just pencils? How are they a matter of department, school, and school district policy? I don’t get it.”

“Let the record show that Bob ‘doesn’t get it.’ Bob, have you ever thought about what a pencil is and what it could potentially be?”

“Um, I guess not. I guess I’ve always thought of a pencil as a pencil.”

“Bob, I think it may be a matter of your not considering the bigger issues at stake here.”

“What issues? Isn’t a pencil just a pencil?

“Bob, I really wish you would have taken the time to read through the paperwork placed in your mailbox and read the emails referencing this particular topic.”

“I’m sorry. There are just so many emails, copies of which are put in our mailboxes, and which we review at staff meetings, which are also put in our mailboxes. It’s difficult to discern what is of actual importance and what is simply repeated for repetition’s sake.”

“Bob, it seems as though you’re approaching this meeting with a bad attitude. Is everything okay at home? How are your wife and daughters?”

“Uh, they’re all okay. My comments have nothing to do with, nor reflect upon them.”

“Okay then, if there’s not a problem, then perhaps we can continue?”

“Sure. Whatever. Go for it.”

“Thank you, Bob, for allowing us to continue while honoring everyone’s individual work time.”


“So, back to the pencils.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“I thought the issue of the pencils was determined last night at the school board meeting.”

“Fred, they discussed it at last night’s board meeting, but they still require our input.”

“Actually, I don’t think they do. They voted and reached a decision. The local newspaper printed a column on their debate and decision today. I think it may be a dead issue.”

“Fred, administration has asked for our input on the issue, which is the primary purpose of our meeting today.”

“Why would we meet on an issue that has already been decided? It looks to me like they’re just giving us the illusion of having input. The issue regarding pencils has already been decided.”

“Fred, that’s where we’re trying to be proactive in regards to other aspects of the pencil issue.”

“But what is there to be proactive about? The board decided that a pencil wasn’t a lethal weapon unless sharpened beyond a .02 diameter tip and the student illustrated ‘intent to harm.’ What else is there to be proactive about?”

“Fred, I want to put this across professionally, without you taking it as a personal statement or attack, but have you considered the implications of varied sexuality when it comes to the pencil?”

“Sexual implications? What the hell kind of sexual…”

“Which is my point, Fred. We can help each other in being more proactive in understanding the varied implications of an issue, rather than the one that seems most apparent.”

“But how the hell does a pencil relate to sexuality?”

“You illustrate my point exactly, Fred. Have you not noticed that most pencils are –and I mean this with all decorum– hard? And it goes without saying the implication of pencils having pink erasers on the tips. Ticonderoga is probably the most obvious example of this and in their blatant insensitivity to race, because of their particular color.”

“They’re yellow. Is that what you mean?”

“Um, yes Fred. Haven’t you noticed the implications of that? We’re not only talking sexually, but also in regards to ethnicity. As you know, we’re all supposed to be a bit more sensitive to those issues.”

“Okay. Give me a moment to wrap my head around that one. Please go on.”

“Okay then. Administration would like to have our input on the pencil issue.”

“Our input, specifically, in regards to what?”

“Hannah, have you not been paying attention? We need to come to a consensus regarding whether we consider wooden pencils to be a potential weapon in the hands of a student or not. Can we have a show of hands? Please raise five fingers if you believe they are and we’ll work our way down to one if you don’t think they are.”

“But what if we’re the only one to raise one finger? Won’t that single us out?”

“No, not at all. We’re sensitive to everyone’s opinions and input. If you vote with a single digit against everyone else, we will simply stop and re-discuss the issue until a consensus is reached.”

“But if I’m the only one to disagree, won’t it amount to my being bullied into agreeing or being labeled as a troublemaker?”

“Fred, I think that’s a rather cynical viewpoint. Can’t you at least give the agreed upon system a fair try? Of course, if you disagree, we’re more than happy to consider your thoughts and opinions.”

“Um, okay.”

“Okay then. All who vote five? Okay then, all fives except for Fred’s single ‘one’ vote. So, Fred, what can we do to convince you that you should vote along with the other fourteen of us?”

“I guess….maybe it’s just a matter of my being confused…but you’re asking us to vote on an issue that’s already been decided, but if we don’t agree with the other votes, it will be a matter of record and we will be met with frustration and disagreement until we vote with the majority?”

“That’s a very cynical way of looking at the proceedings we all agreed upon Fred. Would you like some time to reconsider your vote or would you like to discuss the issue that the school board voted for last night so that you might contribute in…some way?”

“No. No. I think I understand the issue at this point and the varied opinions of all of those in our department who have contributed.”

“Good then. So we can call it all fives. I can’t tell you all how happy I am with what we’ve accomplished today. And I really appreciate everything that everyone in our department contributed to the discussion and decision. I’ll report our thoughts, opinions, and votes to administration.”

“Um, I don’t mean to be the spoiler in the group, but we’ve went beyond the hour of allotted time.”

“Thank you Bill, your contribution to making sure we were all on task and accomplished so much is very much appreciated. I feel good about what we’ve managed to accomplish today people. It makes me feel good about each of you and the good things we can continue to do in the future. I look forward to letting administration know what we’ve decided here today.”

“Um, but…

“What was that, Fred?”

“Nothing. Just clearing my voice a bit. I look forward to our next meeting and all that we can accomplish.”

“Good for you, Fred. That’s the kind of input and attitude everyone can benefit from.”

“Just noticing. We went over by four minutes on our meeting.”

“Thank you for that input Bill. We’ll talk to those who feel the need to move beyond our established time frame with our next meeting, perhaps you can help with minutes as well as time-keeping?”

“Um. Sure. Okay. Happy to be able to contribute. As I’m sure, all of us are.”

“Fred, in between now and the next meeting, would you like a pencil or two, just to look over and possibly take notes on so you’ll be better prepared for our next meeting?”

“That sounds great. I’ll look the pencils over real well before the next meeting.”

“That’s the spirit Fred. It’s always a good sign when you know you have a solid team player working with you.”

“Um, thanks?”

William Martin Passionate, published author and educator United States | Writing and Editing
William Martin
Passionate, published author and educator
United States | Writing and Editing

Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

2 thoughts on “Department Meeting by William Martin

    1. Good to see you here, Joseph. Thank you for your insight into this department, district wide, statewide-national problem. Obviously, you are jaded….and have not considered the varied future implications of a HARD pencil.

Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.