At my kids’ school each child in the classroom is given a “job”. It might be manning the pencil sharpener or keeping the supplies orderly. My first grader, Corinne, is the Light Monitor for her class; as the Light Monitor it is her responsibility to turn the lights on and off at the appropriate time.
On a side note, I have been seriously considering submitting a request to our Human Resources Department that we hire a light monitor at my company, since we never seem to have enough lights on and/or working in our offices. I think this may actually be the job of the Facilities Department, but since they’re busy trying to help the mailman figure out how to get us our mail without having access to our part of the building, they don’t have time to worry about things like lighting. (Now that I think about it, we also could use a “coffee monitor” to check bacteria levels in the coffee pots, which have survived several office moves and a few mergers without ever having seen soap.)
For the older kids, like Elizabeth, you have to “apply” for the job you want. You submit several applications and the teacher assigns you the role she feels you are most qualified for. Elizabeth was hoping to get an exciting job, like the classroom phone operator. While she didn’t get the phone gig, she ended up with something much better suited to her personality. She came home last week elated; she had been selected to be the class Tally Monitor.
A “tally” is our school’s word for a negative mark. For example, if you talk out of turn or lick your neighbor’s eraser, you get a tally. There are consequences based on the number of tallies one receives in a given day or week.
To understand the reason for Elizabeth’s delight at being selected Tally Monitor, you need a little background. In school, Elizabeth is a quiet kid, who listens to the teacher, does what she is told and tries to live a peaceful existence. When she entered public school in first grade, having gone to a private pre-school and kindergarten, her class size increased from 7 kids to 32 kids. She quickly found that her goals were in conflict with everyone else’s.
Public school, like life, is a jungle and social Darwinism is alive and well. Only the fittest survive and, as she observed, the fittest roll around on the classroom floor, eat their pencils and stomp on others’ lunch boxes.
Poor Elizabeth spent most of the year in shock, while we tried to teach her to eat pencils to ensure she made it to second grade. We worried constantly. She too had to push and cut in line like everyone else at lunchtime, or she’d always be the last one to be served the cafeteria mystery meat and would never have a chance to finish it before the bell rang.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth refused to conform to such behavior, and we finally gave up trying to teach it to her. By second grade, her shock turned to annoyance and by third grade she was indignant.
But now, in fifth grade, she has finally been given her chance to nail those brats, fair and square. As Tally Monitor you are the policeman, the judge and the jury. You give tallies and dole out punishment to the classroom miscreants. As you can imagine, it is a job which requires a deep understanding of classroom law and a true commitment to justice, both of which are ingrained in Elizabeth.
- Talking during the morning announcements? Tally for you!
- What, you have two tallies? Sit at the table during recess and write sentences! (Followed by evil laugh.)
Every day, she comes home and gives us her Tally Monitor “Smackdown Report”. Slowly but surely, every kid that frustrated her over the past 4 years is being brought to justice.
It looks like this will be a good year. Elizabeth has found a way to ensure her survival in the jungle. Maybe she can even convince the teacher to make the kid with the most tallies this month drink coffee from my company’s coffee pots…