Creators of educational curriculum are crazy or they have a sense of humor. -Intellectual Shaman
The Circle of Courage was a place where students provided feedback to each other on their behavior. It was based on the reeducation principles, which sounded a lot like the curriculum a cult might use for brainwashing. Two thumbs up was a great day! And two thumbs down meant you lost your prize money.
“How did Nicholas do today?” I asked. Usually, the first vote was accurate. Everybody spun their hands and offered thumbs. It was two thumbs down. Nicholas screamed, “You bitches; I’ll kill you!” He picked up his chair and threw it through the 2-story window onto the playground. After the incident, the success of our program came into question.
We moved the group next-door and continued. “How did Jason do today?” I asked. Everybody spun their hands and offered thumbs up; that is, except for Nicholas who did thumbs down. “You get to go to the prize box,” I said. Jason was looking for his prize when Nicholas snuck up behind him and upturned the box onto the floor. The bell rang and everybody grabbed a prize and ran for the exit.
“Come back!” I shouted. But they were gone.
Usually, it’s easier to control a group than one person, but I just wasn’t having very good luck. I was teaching the 5th graders how to read and everybody was bored, including myself. It was the workbooks. The questions were about grocery stores and places you didn’t want to go. I was the authority who didn’t want to be the authority and maybe the kids knew it.
“There’s 3 of us and only 1 of him,” they said. Jamal had a mischievous grin on his face. “Let’s go play basketball!”
“You can’t!” I yelled. But maybe they heard the lack of conviction in my voice. I was reading Ayn Rand where she defined the individual. He is someone who is neither a master, nor a slave.
They got up and left.
“Miss Helfrich, the boys took off on me!”
“Why did you let them!” She screamed.
“There was nothing I could do,” I said.
“That’s not true! Now watch the class while I do the job you were supposed to!” She went downstairs and wrangled the boys like they were disobedient sheep. I taught the reading class in the interim. “Great job Gary! You have the first page done!” By giving attention to the results I wanted, everybody in the class competed to get their work finished. I just hoped they wouldn’t run out of work to do until Miss Helfrich came back.
They ran out of work and the natives became restless. “What are we going to do now?” Keith asked. I realized I needed to come up with something fast. “Pictionary!” I said. “Let’s see who can guess what I’m drawing!” I started to make a grasshopper. I got the leg done and it looked like a chainsaw.
“You’re drawing a serial killer!” Skylar yelled. Then the kids started to talk about Freddy vs. Jason and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Things were getting out of hand and Miss Helfrich walked in.
“Mr. Johnson! What are you drawing?”
I quickly completed the grasshopper so she would know I wasn’t drawing a serial killer. Then she breathed a sigh of relief and so did I.