Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Polar Express

I was relieved to hear that Miss Allington's second grade class barely qualified, through last minute (very) obedient behavior, for a well-earned reprive from the "three Rs" (pulled straight from the "Little House on the Prairie" archives indellibly engraved somewhere on the folds of my cerebrum). Thankfully they were able to enjoy a cinematic journey to the North Pole via the Polar Express. The hard work, fret, diligence, worry, and reslutant extra effort during the month of December was paid off with a much anticipated Friday-before-Christmas miracle.

This manipulative tactic has been masterfully employed by both Tayler's elementary school teachers (at different schools). In Mrs. Thorton's first grade class, each child could earn, subsequently lose, and hopefully re-gain (seemingly with no limit on the ability to re-earn) their "golden ticket". Said ticket promised to ensure a fun-filled Friday-afternoon-before-Christmas on the Polar Express. We received a nightly report about whether or not Blaze (the apparent class miscreant) ended the day in possession of his golden ticket. Much to the surprise (and relief) of everyone in room seven (I confess I really don't know the room number), Blaze's last minute penitence resulted in his earning back his golden ticket--mere moments before showtime last year. Talk about cutting it close.

Tayler seemed to be back and forth through the month of December as to whether she was happy or sad that Blaze might not be able to join his peers. But in the end, she appeared relieved. Blaze wasn't the only child influenced by the promise of reward, and threat of exclusion. The annoyingly obedient Tayler was on her extra-best behavior in the weeks leading up to the big event.

Near as I can tell, Miss Allington's class started the month with the words POLAR EXPRESS PARTY on the chalkboard. As forgetful children would mouth off, or become extra unruly, a letter could be wiped away from the board. This time though, there was no promise that a letter could ever be re-written, once removed. This was especially terrifying to Tayler. One evening this past week however, over Jess' chicken cordon bleu (her best ever), Tayler informed us that a previously removed letter had been unexpectedly resurrected due to extraordinary obedience that afternoon. Miss Allington noted that such an even had never taken place in her entire teaching carreer (which couldn't possibly encapsule more than four prior Christmas seasons).

I felt the parental obligation to reassure Tayler that the Christmas Spirit was almost sure to result in the final "Y" remaining on the board just moments before the promised hour. "Don't worry about it Tayler, I know your class will magically be eligible for the trip on the Polar Express--regardless of your behavior". Not sure why I felt the need to inform her of the end result. Perhaps I'm a little envious that such a ploy seems to so consistently result in behavior modification at school, while the repeated, albeit inconsistent, threats of "a lump of coal" in your stocking hung by the chimney with care, seem only good for brief periods of improved obedience at home (a place wherein no other success can compensate for failure).

Jess, apparently equally envious or irritated (still difficult, after over 8 years of marriage, to unequivocally know for sure), added the following wise counsel, "Tayler, there is no way your teacher has a lesson plan prepared for Friday. You're guaranteed a Friday afternoon trip on the Polar Express." Tayler, clearly confused at either our insistence on the certainty of the outcome, or simply not knowing what the "H" Jess meant by an unprepared "lesson plan"--responded by resuming her meal.

Somewhere, I suspect, Blaze's family is also breathing a sigh of releif that their son earned his "golden ticket" just in the [Saint] Nick of time.


Maria said...

It's just good having you back in the blog-o-sphere! :) You're funny!

Shantelle said...

Such a great post! As a teacher and a parent, I can honestly confess that it is soooooooo much easier to modify behavior in a classroom setting.

Jenny Moore said...

Love it!!
Cute little Tayler, it's amazing how you capture her personality in your writing!