Mrs. O’Reilly opened her teacher manual to the next lesson in the approved sequence. It was time to confront multiplication of proper fractions. Before the kids left for home the day before, she had informed them that they would each need to bring an apple to class. “Hands-on, real-life application of mathematical processes,” she announced, reading precisely from her script.
Her overzealous fifth graders and their parents now arrived in their family sports cars and luxury sedans. Mothers and fathers walked their progeny to the classroom and offered to stay to help with the class project. Each student clung to his or her own magnificent beribboned basket filled with a dozen large red apples each. Clearly students and parents had communicated through social media the night before and had attempted to outdo their peers in presentation. Mrs. O’Reilly beamed and provided abundant effective praise. They sliced and diced fruit all morning and, before the end of the day, whipped up enough apple muffins for every child and his parent to eat on the way to the parking lot.
A mile away, Mrs. Jones opened her own teacher manual to the same lesson. After all, it was the fourth Tuesday in January, and she had to adhere to the pacing calendar, just like every other fifth grade teacher in the state. Wearily, she welcomed her fifth graders to class as well. Half of the children arrived late with excuses from their parents: “It’s all my fault…” “We couldn’t decide how to do Amelia’s hair today…” “I was watching Fox News and just lost track of the time…” One-fourth of the children brought other excuses: “My child really doesn’t like apples…” “Please excuse my son from math – we don’t believe in playing with food…” “I forgot what you wanted – will oranges work?”
It was a good thing that Mrs. Jones was a proactive teacher and planned ahead. She had visited the neighborhood grocery store the night before and spent twelve dollars of her own money on thirty-four apples. These were stacked in an empty cardboard box that the bagger had pulled from the back of the store. To be politically correct, she had used a piece of duct tape to cover the word “Budweiser” on the side of the box. The apples were chopped and otherwise manipulated during the morning lesson. Most of the class met the standard for the day and were awarded with their very own paper cup filled with juicy slices of the fruit to eat during snack time. Most of these were dumped into the garbage can at the back of the room as the kids opted instead for their Hot Cheetos and Oreos.