Let me tell you a story…
This blog post is not my usual type of post. It’s a bit long, there are a lot of words. I try to avoid being too wordy in my posts. But this one is different. This is a story that unfolded this school year in a class that is teaching me as much as I’m teaching them. This is the story of boys vs. girls. A story of growing up. A story about kids who showed me that kindness can come from the most unexpected places.
If you have the time, I think you won’t regret the read.
This year I have a lot of great classes, some are quiet, some are energetic (read: loud). I don’t have any class that I don’t like, and that’s so nice to say, because the truth is that sometimes you get a bad combination of (otherwise good) kids who make teaching much more difficult than it needs to be. But I have this one class that started out the year on bad ground with one another. A group of boys in the room did not get along with a group of girls in the room, and vice versa. They really did not like each other.
The tension led to immaturity in the form of a back and forth exchange of clay residue on one another’s clothing- nothing violent, but unacceptable. I had to have a few talks with these kids, both individually and as larger groups. They had to talk things out with the principal. The conflict didn’t just disappear, but gradually I saw one person take a high road, and then another person, and I saw that they were actively ignoring one another.
I talked with one student about her goal to become a better person overall, and how this situation tested her. She chose to stay true to her heart, which is a good heart. She was asked, but the principal, to apologize to the boy she most disliked, and she did. I saw her do it. I was so proud of her.
I am also proud of the boys, who didn’t escalate the situation either. They sat in seats facing away from the girls, and they talked about other things, not paying any attention to the girls. A truce was reached, and the class became a calmer place to be.
Things were great. We started painting, and eventually got to do the Color Mixing Challenge. This is always a fun few days in class. Read my earlier blog for details on the Challenge. It’s a blast.
Girls teams competed against each other and against boys teams. Kids rose to the challenge and I was so proud of the whole group.
Things were great….until the prize ‘ceremony’. You see, on the second day of the challenge, my kind hearted girl was the only one in her group present in class. She had to work alone, while the other groups worked together. She didn’t quit, but instead worked even harder to earn points for her team. None the less, she didn’t earn enough points to ‘win’.
When teams were ranked, she complained to her group that it wasn’t fair to be ranked lower than those groups who scored more, because she worked alone for one of the two challenge days. I didn’t respond to her complaints, but I heard them. I believed that it wouldn’t be the right thing to do to step in and change the rules for everyone because of student absences. Rules were in place, and I stuck to them.
Worse still, her group tied with another group, and we had to break the tie. We did rock/paper/scissors. Her group lost. Things aren’t looking good. She’s a kind girl, but she is emotional and reactive at times. This was testing her.
To give out prizes, I do this:
- The last place group spins the ‘Wheel of Prizes‘. Their prize is posted by their group name on the board.
- Next to last spins next. They can keep what they get, or trade it for the other group’s prize.
- This continues until the first place group spins. They choose from all previous prizes, or the one they spun.
This is fun, but tense, as groups must quickly decide what prize they will choose. Additionally, a teacher must be pretty confident in her class management to allow kids to steal prizes from each other!
One prize on the wheel is the ‘You Owe Me $1’ prize. If a group gets this, I cheer and say, ‘Yes!! I’m going to be RICH!’ and tell them they owe me $1. Disclaimer: I WILL NOT KEEP THEIR DOLLAR. But I don’t tell them that.
Right from the start, my girl is mad about her point value, and then she sees this. I can hear her getting worked up about it, but I don’t comment on her whispered complaints.
So now the time comes for her group to spin the wheel. Previous prizes on the wall include iMusic passes, DJ for a Day, and a piece of candy. Her group spins……YOU OWE ME $1. It’s too much. She is mad. She is ready to shut down. I see it coming. Holy moly, WHY did this prize come up for THIS group?!
The sweetest thing I’ve seen all year
Next up is the boys group. Those boys that didn’t get along with those girls. They spin. They get a pass to get out of E/I for a day and come to hang with me and do art in the art room. This is a good one.
They don’t debate, they don’t discuss. They walk up to my desk with $1 and say they’re taking that prize away from the girls and trading it for their E/I pass. The girls get the pass, the boys pay me $1. It is the sweetest thing I’ve seen all year. Heck, it is the sweetest thing I’ve seen in all my teaching career. I clapped for them. The rest of the class joined in. The girls were stunned.
I talked with that girl later. She was still emotional about what happened. I told her the truth- what those boys did, and what they earned in return, was worth more than money could ever buy. She agreed. I will never forget this class, and I am proud to be their teacher.