Thursday, January 7, 2010

Money matters

We recently went on a (free) field trip to a bookstore. I had 26 kids with me, and 21 of them had brought money to buy books. Some had as little as $5 (thank goodness for the store's 20% discount and tax exemption), and some had as much as $20. (They can't really conceptualize how expensive books can actually be, and they're still not really clear on the concept of "getting change," so a lot of the kids with $20 bills were running around holding four books and attempting to find just one more that would bring them up to a grand total of exactly $20.)

Bryce was one of the lucky $20 kids. He is not normally a kid who likes to share (in fact, he typically flies into hysterics if someone so much as picks up his pencil by accident), so I was surprised when he spontaneously announced that he was going to buy a book for his partner, Dana. Dana is sweet, thoughtful, wants to be a teacher when she grows up, and comes to school about a half-hour late every single day. As I watched Bryce walk around juggling half a dozen paperbacks, I worried he would change his mind.

Then Mario started asking me about the price of various books, which was odd because he hadn't brought any money with him. Apparently Jason had told Mario he would give him $4 for a book. Jason is notoriously unreliable, and I was getting concerned about the whole transfer-of-money thing. On the one hand, I didn't want to tell Bryce and Jason they couldn't buy books for their friends. (Although I'm pretty sure Jason's gesture was purely mercenary -- he was finished using his money on the books he wanted, and it's not like it was his own money that he was saving for anything, so he let Mario have some.) But on the other hand, I didn't want the kids with $5 clamoring for extra money from the kids with $20, or the kids with $20 lording it over the kids who hadn't brought anything.

In the end, Bryce did buy a book for Dana, and Jason did buy a book for Mario. That left three students with no money, whom I quietly took aside and allowed to choose a book. So everyone in my class went home with something. And thankfully, I didn't hear any bribery or bargaining going on, at least until we got back to school and Kyle started divvying up his new Captain Underpants books.

On an unrelated note, I love field trip days, because they let me get to see the best of my class. (i.e., my students are surprisingly enjoyable when I am not forcing the workshop model down their throats!) On our last trip, someone threw up on the bus, and no one near him said "EWWWW! GROSS!" or made fun. They get ridiculously excited about the mundane things they can spot out the window ("MISS BRAVE! I SEE A DUNKIN' DONUTS!!!"), like little sponges slurping up the outside world. When we get back and eat our lunches, they munch with sighs of satisfaction like their sandwiches are the best thing in the world. (Actually, since they're used to eating lunch at 10 in the morning and it's usually 1:00 by then, they probably are! Also, today a girl brought two donuts as her lunch. Yuck.) My dream student Leah always holds her partner's hand for safekeeping (because she's just that responsible). On our trip to the bookstore, the bus ride back to school was a low hum of excitement over everyone's new books, and when we pulled up in front of school, my most adorable student looked up in happy amazement. "Miss Brave," he said, "me and Tara were so quiet! We didn't even talk, we were just reading our books."

Oh, man, don't you wish every day could be like that?


Sarah said...

What an awesome trip! How sweet of some of them to share - I love it when they surprise me like that!

Sara R said...

Is it typical for the school to schedule field trips to a commercial place like that where the students are expected to spend money, especially if most of the students receive free lunch? I know there isn't room in our budget for most new books (especially children's books, which I get by the bushel at yard sales), but we do have enough money to feed my children lunch.

miss brave said...

Sara R -- No, it's not typical. Our other field trips include the farm, theaters to see plays, botanical gardens, and science museums. We don't expect the kids to bring money for any of these trips. Unfortunately, the trips themselves do cost money (usually $6-$10 per student), but for kids or parents who seem hesitant about the cost, we find a way to make it work.

Anonymous said...

I laughed at your points about the vomit on the bus.

Last year, I didn't have one trip on which a student got sick. This year, it's happened three times on two trips. To the kids' credit, they deal with it wonderfully - both the sick ones and the ones around them. One kid was unwittingly the recipient of his partner's vomit, and he just handled it so maturely. No one made fun, it was lovely.

I agree about the trip days and seeing your class in a different light. If you set everything up for them so they know how to behave, trips are great. And I just love exposing my class to things they might not have gotten to see otherwise.

I'll be linking to your blog on mine and checking back. You have some interesting thoughts.