Education for Life

Milo’s year 6 class is learning a practical life skill: managing personal finances.

The classroom economy works like this: Each student automatically gets $150 “classroom bucks” at the beginning of the week (nice classroom society, eh?).  They can earn $100-150 more by doing classroom jobs.  Good behavior at various points during the day is worth $1 per incident.  Good behaviors include tidying up, being “sensible” during silent reading time “showing 5” (all 5 senses at attention) when sitting on the mat, and demonstrating good values (care, resilience, respect, honesty).  Like I said, it’s the idealized classroom microcosm; I have yet to see good behavior lead to monetary reward in the real world.  Wifi, internet, furniture rental, and electricity are overhead expenses, costing $85/week.

Excess classroom bucks are mainly used to purchase free time or screen time, valuable commodities among the year 5/6 block.

They have even been doing job interviews for the various jobs in the classroom, some of which are worth more classroom bucks than others.  Putting chairs up and taken down, charging computers, cleaning out the cubbies…  There’s a CEO for each classroom service business, who get paid more for, in Milo’s words, “doing the exact same thing.”  If there’s an extra organisational component to the CEO job, the lowly worker Milo is unaware of it. 

He thinks he’s too cool these days to smile for a photo.

We were in the car the other day when Milo commented “I think Jack might get the job instead of me, but that’s not fair.”  I was aware that he was talking about his classroom economy, but I needed a bit more explanation.  He continued, “His friends are the ones doing the hiring, and he exaggerated on his job application.” 

I hesitated for a moment.  “That doesn’t feel very fair, does it?  You’d like to think that the best qualified applicant would get the job….but let me tell you something (here I adopted the deep measured baritone my own father used with me all those decades ago): The World is NOT Fair!”  

Mentally I added the “Princess Bride extension:” ….and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something! 

I continued my sermon: “In real life, having friends in a company does help you get a job, and apparently everyone exaggerates their skills on applications.”  I sat glumly for a moment, wondering what inspired pearl of wisdom I could impart to my son. 

Nothing came to mind.  I just shook my head, reflecting on my own frustrating job search. “It’s worth maintaining good relationships, isn’t it?” 

A week or two later Milo returned to the classroom economy.  “I’m the only one doing the chair putting-down in the mornings, because I’ve done the whole job by the time the others show up.” 

“Oh yeah? Do the others still getting paid for the job?” I queried.  It’s not easy to fire employees in New Zealand, and I wondered how the classroom economy would treat shirkers. 

“Yeah, they get paid less, but they’re still paid, because they still do the afternoon chair picking-up.” 

Turns out Milo gets $150/week in recognition of him doing the morning job on his own plus joining in the afternoon shift, and the other team members get $100/week for doing just the afternoon shift.  At the moment Milo seems content to get only $50 for the morning job, which would normally cost a CEO several hundreds of dollars in labour.  I’m curious what will happen in the classroom economy if Milo decides to be less industrious. I did not suggest this, as tempting as it was.

I’ve been trying to instate a household economy, with admittedly less success than the school’s. They earn a pompom to put in a join “account” jar whenever they do a job without having to be asked (brush teeth, empty dishwasher, take out compost, etc). In this economy, when the pompom jar is full, we go out for a family treat. Naomi is the motivated one. Despite the reward being a cafe treat which they are both clearly excited to enjoy, Naomi earns 90% of the pompoms in the jar. Not sure if this means that she’s highly food motivated, or more agreeable…..probably both.

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