The Million Dollar Pen

Recently, I was told a story about the early NASA space missions. One of the problems facing the astronauts was having a writing utensil that could be used in space. Due to the lack of gravity, traditional pens would not work properly. After dedicating teams of researchers and spending nearly a million dollars, they were finally able to produce a pen that worked in zero gravity. The mission was a success. The story continues with the Russian cosmonauts facing the same issue. Their solution? They used a pencil.

I can’t confirm that this story is completely accurate, but it certainly demonstrates a good point. Sometimes the most obvious solution is the best one. I think it’s human nature when confronted with complex problems to get a committee together, brainstorm ideas, and often pour a lot of money into fixing things. However, sometimes it just takes looking at things through a different lens for a solution to present itself. I think many times in education, we seek out the newest program or latest technology and spend time and resources chasing a silver bullet to help student achievement. In other words, we are looking to design that million dollar pen. Often, struggling students simply need more time on task, individualized instruction, or help dealing with social/emotional issues. New programs can be great, but it’s the personal interactions from caring and knowledgeable staff that really make the difference for students.

It can be overwhelming when we look at all the issues facing educators today. Legislation, mandates, budgets, societal issues…they all impact schools and can put a lot of pressure on school personnel. When we are feeling overwhelmed, we need to remember that it’s the simple things that will make the difference. Promoting curiosity, providing flexibility in the classroom, and ensuring a safe environment.  You, as the teacher make the difference. Ditch the million dollar pen and go with the pencil!


photo credit: Jack Zagoory Pen Holder (Amazon)


“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” – Mother Teresa

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

Books worth Reading



  • Monday, September 18: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, Fire Drill 11:25 AMConstitution Day Recognized
  • Tuesday, September 19: REED (Ringler/Edwards & Achievement Team) 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, September 20: Tornado Drill 3:15 PM
  • Thursday, September 21: Building PD (PBS) 7:50-8:50 AM, Jon to Central Office 1:30-3:00 PM, PTA Meeting 7:00 PM
  • Friday, September 22: 504 Meeting (Benson/Blazek) 9:50 AM, 5D Self-Assessments due in Pivot


  • Monday, September 25: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM
  • Tuesday, September 26: 504 Meeting (Mcguigan/Blazek) 8:15 AM, Lock Down Drill 9:30 AM
  • Wednesday, September 27: Lifetouch Picture Day (Will start with Kindergarten), Jon to Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM
  • Thursday, September 28: Staff Meeting in LMC 8:05 AM
  • Friday, September 29: iReady Window Closes, Jon in Lansing for MEMSPA Board of Directors Meeting, PTA Fun Run 6:30-8:00 PM (I will be back for the event)


  • Friday, October 6: Student Data K-4 due in Illuminate
  • Tuesday, October 10: DATA DIVES (Subs have been secured – Schedule to follow)


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