When the students enter class the desks are stacked against the wall. They are directed to stand in a circle in the center of the room. Rules are written on the chalkboard in white. Everyone is to wait for their name to be called, then one by one step to the middle of the class and draw a slip of paper from the black box, hold it tight in their hand, and do not open until told.
Predictions are made. Wagers placed. Nervous energy surges. “What’s the prize? A bar of chocolate? He’s given us Hersey bars before. Maybe the winner gets McDonalds? Some teachers do that, you know?”
Sometimes I even play music. Vivaldi’s Flute Concerto in G minor ‘La Notte’ is succinct and pulsing. Perfect as one by one they draw their slips from the box.
It’s a funny exercise. Students here are not used to creative activities in class, and over the last few years I’ve thrown all kinds of things at them: ‘Mock’ Salem Witch Trials, Obstacle Courses, Scavenger Hunts, Thoreau Walden Solo Camping Trips, Greek Myth Charades, Short Satire Film Projects, Interview an Elder Documentaries, once we even cleared all the desks and chairs out of the room and practiced basketball drills on the fifth floor before a rival game. That was actually really cool!
I don’t tell them we’re going to kill the winner. I just let it unfold. Draw the slips, find the black dot, read the story aloud, let them see if for themselves. Sometimes, you just have to force kids to go through it so they know. Then they see... exactly what we do to each other for nothing.