Saturday, June 17, 2017

Change for the Better: A Year in the Life of a Teacher on Hall Duty

I teach Latin at a public high school in New Jersey. This year, two of my three duty periods were to walk the halls after lunch, and the third was to monitor the overflow cafeteria in the library.

And early on I was picking up random coins kids would drop and apparently not want to pick up.

I asked students why they didn't themselves pick up, say, a dime they saw sitting on the ground. Most stated that they would bother picking up a quarter, but anything smaller wasn't worth the time.

On one occasion a student was getting up from a table on which there clearly sat a dime and a penny. I said, "Aren't you going to take that change?"

He said, "Why? What can eleven cents buy you anymore?"

[As if he remembers a time long ago when it could!]

The Dream: Eating McDonald's on "Found Money"

I began picking up the coins I would see and put them in an envelope in the desk of a colleague who shares my love of McDonald's. We joked that maybe, just maybe, the change could add up to enough by the end of the year to get our beloved Big Macs only on "found money."

As the school year wound down, my last hall duty of the year happened before we have now started Final Exams.

It was time for the grand total.

We had been counting as we went, keeping track of it on the envelope, and putting pennies in another envelope altogether. Here's the final tally:

$22.90! And that's not counting the pennies, which probably totaled another three dollars.

On Thursday we went to McDonald's, and our order, each of us getting a Big Mac, Large Fries, and 4 Piece Chicken McNuggets, came to about that much. We took all the pennies and the nickles and put them in the Ronald McDonald House Charities receptacle. We had separated the quarters and dimes into dollars to use them without inconvenience. And so it happened, we did indeed have two people eat McDonald's mostly on "found money."

"Kids These Days"

A final point. You may notice there is a five dollar bill in that picture. One day when I was on the library duty, I noticed something under the chair of a student working at one of the public computers. As I picked it up, I realized it was a five dollar bill, looking like it had been trampled under foot there for days, not hours. There were about five students working in the immediate vicinity at those computers. 

I said aloud, "Whose five dollar bill is this?"

Some kids checked their pockets and purses and one by one answered, "It's not mine."

I said, "If any one of you says this is your five dollar bill, I'm giving it to you."

And each one said in turn words to the effect of, "It's not mine, so that would be lying."

Keep in mind, this is not a rich school, it's not like five dollars means nothing to those kids. But what clearly matters more to them is their honesty and integrity.

And so, I have to say, anyone who thinks the world is going downhill because of "Kids These Days," simply doesn't spend enough time with young people. 

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