Thursday, March 20, 2014

Econ 101

We've been leaving sidewalk chalk outdoors overnight, which means it's wet in the morning, so it's nice and creamy and we've been smearing it all over the place.

On Monday, the kids in our 5's class got things going, a group of them coming to an unspoken agreement to completely cover a plank and several tree rounds. Much of it had washed away by Wednesday morning, but enough remained to inspire the 3-5's class to take it up a notch. I joined the the fun by writing the names of RHYS and DEACON by way of delighting the two boys who go by those appellations. Young children take universal pleasure in recognizing their own name in writing.

When the older children arrived in the afternoon, a group of us imagined we were looking at a secret code. Gus said, "Read it, Teacher Tom. What does it really say?" I answered, "Rhys Deacon," to which he replied, "What's that? Rhys Deacon? What's that?"

Audrey took credit, "I wrote the code. It's in Audrey language," which is a special brand of gibberish in which she takes great pride.

"Well, what does it mean?"

"It tells us where the treasure is."

"Where's the treasure?"

"It's somewhere around here," Audrey answered, inflecting her voice with mystery.

"Around here . . ." Gus considered it. Then suddenly, "It means the treasure is right here!" pointing to ground at his feet. He moved the plank out of the way, grabbed a push broom and began excavating the area. Calmly, but persistently, Audrey talked him out of his plan, convincing him that "Rhys Deacon," in Audrey language, meant the treasure was some distance away and they headed off together, only to return a few minutes later empty handed.

I asked, "Did you find the treasure?" and Gus answered, "Just one piece, but somebody else grabbed it. Then, "What is that code over there?" He pointed to an area featuring five hues smeared side by side like color samples.

I said, "Those look like colors."

"No, they're a code!" Then taking a page from Audrey's playbook, added, "I wrote that code!"

"Then you should read it to me."

"You have to guess it."

A group of children had gathered around the color code as I attempted to decipher it by picking phrases out of the air.

"There is a magic rock in the playhouse?"


"Audrey is a real fairy?"


"We're all going to Disneyland together?"


"Gus is an astronaut?"

"Well, you got part of it right."

I celebrated by collecting high fives.

"What part did I get right?"

"I'm not telling."

"Gus is?"

"That's the part."

"You told!"

"No, you guessed it."

"Gus is a pirate?"


It went on like this with other kids making their own guesses, until I hit on, "Gus is in love with money."

"That's it!"

"You're in love with money?"

"Well, I don't love money, but I want some."

"Where are you going to get money?"

"I need a job."

A few minutes later, at circle time, we continued the conversation, this time including the brains of the entire class.

"Maybe he could get a job at Domino's Pizza."

"What about that, Gus?" I asked, "I noticed a lot of young people delivering pizza."

"I don't know how to drive."

"Maybe he could work at a store at the place where people give all the money."

A classmate clarified, "It's called a register."

"Yeah, Gus could get a job at a register."

"I don't know how to use a register. I need a job a kid can do."

"Maybe Gus could clean up our school."

"I could do that!"

"He could clean the toilets."

Gus thought for a moment, "Do we have one of those long brushes."

"No," I answered, "Just rubber gloves and sponges."

"I don't want to clean toilets, but I could wash off the snack table."

We offered several more classroom "jobs" Gus could do, but he kept bringing it back to washing off the snack table, so I asked, "Okay, so how much money would you want to get paid?"

"Five dollars."

There was general agreement that this was too much for cleaning the snack table. A few of the parent-teachers even chiming in that they would do it for $5. Xander suggested that it should be more like $3 or $4.

"Would you do it for $3 or $4?" I asked Gus, who agreed. Then I asked, "Where are we going to get the money to pay Gus?" because by now this was a community project.

Lilyana suggested we go to a store and get cash back, to which I replied, "Do stores just give you money?" She looked a little confused and turned to her mom. I said, "That money you get at the store already belongs to your mom."

Anders said, "I know, we can get money at the bank."

"Banks give you money?"

Gus has already checked into this because being a banker is one of his life's ambitions, "They give you money because they already have your money."

I clarified, "Banks are supposed to keep your money safe until you need it, then they give it to you when you need it?"


"So that money already belongs to your parents, too."

Then Gus said, "Teacher Tom, you could just get the money out of your wallet."

"Oh, so you want me to pay you to clean our snack table?"


"It's not worth $5 or $4 or $3 to me. Tell you what, I'll pay you a nickel to clean the table."

"A nickel. I won't do it for a nickel. That's not much money."

"I know, but we usually get the table cleaned for free."

And thus ended our self-constructed lesson in basic economics.

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1 comment:

Gypsy said...

I know we're not supposed to have favourites- but Audrey is mine. She reminds me of a few students who I've taught in the past who are a little quirky and a lot confident. She seems to pop up in your posts in the most awesome of ways- she's my sort of person.