Ah kids. Adorable and terrible. “They’re noisy, they’re messy, they’re expensive. They smell.”* My sister and I once tried to sell my brother at a yard sale. I think we wanted $1000.
At school I teach kids as young as 5 and 6 in the 2nd grade. I had these particular kids last year when they were in the 1st grade and they were adorable little monsters. They still are, to this day.
Some of them run around the classroom, others punch each other or play-fight, which always leads to an accidental real-fight. Some sit quietly and politely, pointing to themselves, smiling, and nodding rapidly, as if to say, “Look how good I’m being!”
Recently, my school implemented a card system for managing student discipline. Young kids who break the rules receive a yellow card. After two they get orange, after two they get red, and finally, after two of those, they get a black card. Just like in Treasure Island, the Black Spot is the end of the line.**
The kids are afraid of the cards. So much so that by merely showing them off as I enter the classroom I can frequently get results. Students see the cards and settle down, folding their hands on their desks and “zipping” their mouths. One particularly weepy boy started crying when he saw that I even had cards with me. That’s usually not enough, though, and oftentimes the cards actually have to be given out. That’s when the waterworks really open up.
Last week I found myself in a situation where a lot of kids had cards coming. One had been picking fights all lesson. He finally picked one fight too many and got socked right in the eye. He burst into tears and I made everyone sit down. I got out the cards. Now his opponent began to cry. “Mas!” he wailed, “Why? He was fighting with me and I don’t want a yellow carrrrrrrd!” His face crumpled into a mess of sobs. It was a shame, too, as he’d been good all lesson.
The eye punch-ee was still crying over his eye, but he started crying harder when I showed him the card I was writing for him too. I explained, as gently as I could, “You have been fighting with people all lesson. You’re getting a yellow card too.”
“But he punched me!“
“But you started the fight. Would you like to see the doctor?”***
“Noooooooo–” and he broke down into more tears. His twin brother offered to see the doctor instead. A generous boy, that one.
Finally came the orange card for the Boy Who Did Nothing, the anti-Harry Potter, as it were.
He had spent the whole lesson wandering around in a daze, refusing to sit when I asked him to, getting up again to lie on the floor, refusing to copy anything down or do any work, and generally being belligerent and obstructive.
Having given out the cards, I went to write on the Card Poster. As I entered names in the appropriate boxes, David and Ana, two of the cutest and generally more well-behaved students asked me, “Are you giving me a card?”
I looked at David, smiling, and said, “Oh yes, David. You get a red card!”
“What????” he protested, also smiling.
“Of course not!” I winked at him and turned back to the poster.
Ana flanked me and asked, “And me?”
I nodded, smiling again, and pointed at the spot for the black card. Ana feigned despair and I laughed, turning back to the poster once more. One minute later, when the poster was complete to my satisfaction, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Ana was slumped against the wall, face buried in her hands, sobbing.
“You gave her a black card!” exclaimed Gigi, ever the concerned one. I had no idea that Ana had believed me! David seemed to take the joke well!
I crouched down and soothingly reassured her, “Ana, I didn’t give you a black card. How could you get a black card? You don’t even have a single yellow card!”
After a few hiccup-y sobs, a sniffle, and an eye-rub, she looked up, her face puffy and tear-streaked. “Why did you trick me?” she demanded in Georgian, flashing an indignant smile.
“I’m sorry, Ana!” and with a warm hug all was forgiven.
*Dr. Alan Grant, Jurassic Park.
**In this case, not death.
***”Mas!” interrupted Zuka, “Доктор [doctor] is Russian! English is called ‘Medic’!” He plays a lot of Counter Strike for a 6 year-old and is constantly proclaiming that he “needs backup!”