A Lesson in Responsibility

It started out simply enough. I wanted to give the students in my class a genuine experience working and dealing with money. It is a very practical application of math and the work that we need to do in class. So my idea, was to give each child $5.00 of play money. They really seemed to like this. The school play money looks pretty realistic as well.

So now each student had $5.00 of play money that they were to keep in the side pouch of their pencil cases. If anyone lost the play money, they would owe me real money to replace it. I made this threat fully hoping that I would never have to follow through with it.

I gave each student a brand new pencil to start the week. I told them that if they lost their pencil they would have to “buy” a new one from me. I also told them that if they failed to bring back their homework they would be fined a dollar. Students who still had all the money at the end of the week would be able to buy a special prize from the teacher store.

This really seemed to work. Students were responsible for their money and looked forward to buying a treat at the end of the week. I decided to try it again the following week. One student lost her $5.00 bill. I hated to exact the penalty that I had threatened only the week before so I casually forgot it. When Friday came, I did not let this student have a prize but I didn’t mention the penalty. Everyone else in the class seemed to be enjoying the system so I again ran it the next week.

To my surprise that following week, the student who had lost her $5.00 of play money brought in a real five dollar bill and gave it to me. I hesitated to accept it. Losing one bill in my math kit wouldn’t make a big difference. $5.00 is a lot of money for a kid in Grade 4. These thoughts ran through my head. Yet, at the same time, I was proud that she was showing such responsibility. I did what I had to. I put the money into my shirt pocket, thanked her, and gave her a new bill of play money.

Shortly after this exchange, the principal happened to wander into my classroom. The students were quietly working and on task. I pulled out the $5.00 from my pocket and offered it to him as a donation towards the Grade 8 trip. He accepted it when I told him the story. I think all the students learned something from this exchange. It gave me another idea (continued tomorrow) . . .