In which we become acquainted with one aspect of the classroom culture in the younger Free-Ride offspring's second grade.
Younger offspring: In my class, we earn ten play cents for coming to school on time, and I earned sixty play cents for bringing back those signed forms, and for bringing in my emergency card, and for bringing all my school supplies.
Dr. Free-Ride: You get paid a bonus just for being on time?
Younger offspring: It's not real money.
Elder offspring: So what do you do with it? What can you use it for?
Younger offspring: Once a week, there's a classroom store, and you can spend your play money to buy something from the store ... a big eraser, a bouncy ball, cards, maybe even a book.
Dr. Free-Ride: In other words, they're turning you into good little capitalists.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Actually, into good little consumers. To turn them into good little capitalists, there would need to be some mechanism for creating new classroom wealth.
Dr. Free-Ride: By exploiting the labors of one's classmates, no doubt.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: They're just making the system of rewards for good behavior more explicit. Last year, they had the marble jar ... but I guess that was for the class collectively, rather than an individual reward.
Younger offspring: When the marble jar was full, the whole class got the reward, like a pizza party.
Dr. Free-Ride: Yeah, the classroom store seems more geared to buying something you want.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Can you buy something together with classmates?
Younger offspring: Huh?
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: If three of you are interested in a book, but none of you has enough classroom money to buy it, could the three of you put your classroom money together to share it?
Younger offspring: I don't know.
Dr. Free-Ride: That's actually a good question. You know, back and college, LO and I were co-owners of a T-shirt.
Elder offspring: Was it big enough for both of you to wear it at the same time?
Dr. Free-Ride: No, we took turns with it. It was a $12 T-shirt, and we both like it, but neither of us had $12, so we each paid $6. I wonder if you're allowed to do that with the big ticket items in the classroom store, or if joint ownership is forbidden.
Younger offspring: Also, if you do something bad, you lose some of the play money from your bank, and if there's no money left in your bank, you have to stand on the red X.
Elder offspring: What about if you spend all your money at the classroom store?
Dr. Free-Ride: That's a good question. If you have an empty bank just from buying something at the classroom store, rather than from misbehaving, do you have to stand on the red X?
Younger offspring: I don't know. I think I'll ask about that tomorrow.
Dr. Free-Ride: That would be like a classroom rule against vagrancy. If we find you without any money in your pocket, you'll be punished.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Hmm, does that make sense? If you lose your last classroom dime on misbehavior, you're not just being charged a dime, but you're also doing your time on the red X. So once your bank is empty, you couldn't pay the fine as well as doing the time in the event of misbehavior. But maybe you weren't going to misbehave ...
Dr. Free-Ride: This may come down to whether the classroom is being run more like a government or a checking account.
Elder offspring: So it's ten cents every time you misbehave?
Younger offspring: I think.
Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm. I wonder if any of your classmates would rather spend their classroom currency on misbehavior than on bouncy balls or books. I mean, if you have seventy classroom cents, you could buy six violations of the rules and still not drain your bank.
Younger offspring: I wouldn't spend my money that way.
Dr. Free-Ride: I didn't say you would, but it seems like you could if you were in a mood to be bad.
Younger offspring: But then I might not have any money left if I misbehaved in music class, and then I might have to stand on the red X.
Dr. Free-Ride: Why would you want to misbehave in music?
Younger offspring: I don't want to misbehave in music, but what if it happened anyway?
Dr. Free-Ride: So your classroom bank is like an insurance policy.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: What is this classroom money like?
Younger offspring: It looks like dimes, only it's plastic, so you can tell they're not real dimes.
Dr. Free-Ride: Hmmm ... presumably your teacher didn't mint these plastic coins herself. If she bought them somewhere --
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Someone might buy the same kind of play money and introduce counterfeit classroom money into the system.
Younger offspring: But she marked all the plastic coins with green to show that they're classroom money from our class.
Dr. Free-Ride: A security device!
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: That makes it harder for counterfeiters, but not impossible.
Dr. Free-Ride: Speaking of security, where are these banks kept?
Younger offspring: We each keep our bank way back in a corner of our desk so no one can see it.
Elder offspring: And your classmates are never alone in the classroom where they'd have the opportunity to steal someone else's money?
Younger offspring: I don't think so.
Dr. Free-Ride: Does your teacher maintain any kind of written records of who has earned how much money and who has been charged money at the store or for misbehaving?
Younger offspring: I don't know.
Dr. Free-Ride: I wonder if there could be any kind of student-to-student commerce with this classroom money.
Elder offspring: I'll give you ten cents for a pencil. Or forty cents to be my best friend.
Dr. Free-Ride: Or fifty cents to copy your homework.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: And suddenly the classroom workforce includes hired goons.
Dr. Free-Ride: In some classrooms, you might have to pay for your handouts or your turn at the board. That would be an excellent set up to study the history of unfair labor practices.
Younger offspring: I'm going to ask my teacher about whether you have to stand on the red X if you spend all your money at the classroom store, but not about this other stuff.
Dr. Free-Ride: That's probably a good idea at this point in the school year. It's a little early to have to explain that, for any given system, your parents will look for the ways it might break.
Elder offspring: Save that for back-to-school night.
We're LOL so hard we're in tears.
Younger Sprog shows some very advanced judgment:
I'm going to ask my teacher about whether you have to stand on the red X if you spend all your money at the classroom store, but not about this other stuff.
Having a bit too much knowledge of all the players (and their extended family) indicates to us that this discussion still has many other avenues to travel before it has played itself out. E.g., Duke would like to explore the concept of due process and classroom legal representation.
It could be a rough year for this second grade teacher.
Oh, that poor teacher is going to hate you SO much...
This is exactly the kind of parent I want to be someday...
Friday Sprog Blogging is one of my favorite weekly routines, and probably what I most look forward to on Fridays :D
My wife has been a teacher for over 20 years. I do the same thing to her incarnations of a classroom store. I have to forward this to her!
I'd love to be a fly on the wall at your next parent-teacher conference.
Before the Internet we had no documentation of the day our parents corrupted our youth. On the bright side, when you and your better half get to acting all saintly and benign in front of the grand kids, YTD can let them read about this exploit.
...and hilarity ensues.
What's funny about this is that if I remember being very interested in finding new ways to get money around that age. I didn't get anything resembling an allowance until fifth grade, so I can imagine myself finding a way to turn that into real money.
Have you tried to work out the exchange rate from plastic to paper?
"I don't want to misbehave in music, but what if it happened anyway?"
This totally happened to me when I was in third grade! There was a picture of a radio with a big volume knob somewhere in our book and I was goofing around with it, pretending to turn it and hum louder or softer depending on which way I turned it. My friend thought it was funny, but the teacher not so much. I had to stand in the corner for the rest of music class, but, having never been sent to the corner before AND never having seen it happen to any classmates, I didn't know that you were supposed to face the walls while in the corner, so I stood the wrong way around and got in trouble _again_. The second misbehavior was completely unplanned! It just happened!
Haha! Thanks for this; it was hilarious. I have no children, but I can't wait to annoy my sister by having these kinds of conversations with her kids!! The teacher would no doubt ask her to limit their time with the naughty aunt!
I also misbehaved in music class completely inadvertantly. I think it was in fifth grad ethough. I was just standing there, minding my own business when the girl behind me decided it would be fun to poke me. I squawked, and the substitute teacher reprimanded me. I argued with it, which just made it worse.
I think the regular teacher (who knew who was likely to go randomly a-poking) wouldn't have gotten mad at just me, but because I'd misbehaved for the substitute the regular teacher decided I should be kicked out of chorus (I understand it must be hard to get kids to behave for a substitute, particularly in chorus, but I've always thought it was horrendously unfair). And that was the end of my involvement with producing music.
Check out this episode of Radio Lab, it details a similar breakdown (and includes proper capitalist exploitation)
This is priceless. My daughter's first grade class has a system very similar. I can't wait to encourage her to subvert it!
Hee hee. This completely cracked me up.
Why do I get the feeling the Free-Ride-lings are going to wind up writing critical evaluations of "The Anarchist's Cookbook" for their fifth grade book report?
As others have noted, this is the kind of parent many of us wish to be. Involved and curious as much as anything else. I may have already started down this path. Our eldest just started preschool, and while he can do most of the objectives for the class already (count to 50-he can count to 100+, etc) he will need help in learning to share, listen, and work together with the teachers and his peers. To that end I taught him three tihngs he is going to ask his teacher to help him learn this year:
He can say them all pretty well when I prompt, we'll see if he can remember on the spot in class this week!