Yesterday, I wrote about a real rebellion in our classroom, incited by my efforts to distribute some small plastic jewels. I was trying to teach them a lesson about fairness by only giving them to the girls, then the boys, then the curly haired, and so on, but they rose up as a single body with righteous anger and demanded that everyone get a jewel. This was an honorable act of citizenship, because this is how democracy works. If I were just educating workers, it would have been a punishable act of insubordination, because that's how dictatorships work. (For better or worse, that's how most businesses are organized, as self-contained, private dictatorships, and it's why it frightens me every time someone says government or its institutions should be "run more like a business.")
When I distributed the little jewels to all the children, I made the comment that I was giving these jewels to them to remind them of Martin Luther King and his message of fairness. It was the kind of thing a teacher says hopefully, but I didn't really expect it to sink-in in the face of a bright and shiny object. Again, I was wrong. Yesterday, Jaimee, the parent of one of the rebels wrote:
. . . despite having a zillion "sparkly things" at home, Ella clutched that "ruby gem" like it was pure gold. She carried it with her all day, and when people asked her about it, she very matter-of-factly explained that it it was in celebration of Martin Luther King and how we should be fair to everyone. Sometimes little people are much better at teaching big people!
Needless to say I'm in teacher heaven right now. I may not be able to buy groceries with it, but this is the kind of payday for which teachers work. And I will be living on it through this long Martin Luther King Day weekend.