This week or rather the last week has been a whirlwind. The time since Thanksgiving whisked by and disappeared. Last weekend we had guests join us from out of town for the weekend and it was time well spent. They came for a youth hockey tournament and we had dinner together Friday and Saturday nights. It was good to connect with them. We see them at the cottage where our children are friends and they play together in the lake and on the slopes, depending on the season. Ironically, Paul was our pilot when we returned from Spring Break 2013 and we spent the night at their home celebrating a Swedish Easter Eve, before driving home on Easter Sunday. While we ate dinner and talked the kids played games in the family room. It really was time well spent.
Nevertheless, as usual, I digress. The lateness of this year’s Thanksgiving holiday means there are fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year there were twenty days, but this year there are fifteen. And, the kids know it, the teachers do too. There is always a frenzy in school, as we get ready for Winter Break and then end of the quarter, which comes the week after winter break. Just like the print on the passenger side mirror, OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR.
At school we’ve been reading, writing, thinking, and learning. ELA, or English Language Arts, has me bogged down. We’ve been doing a lot of writing and I am overloaded in grading. I am looking forward to the break in hopes that I might get some down time to grade and plan. In geography we’ve been studying human geography and we were finishing the unit last week. We’d come to a concept that students consistently struggle with – issues related to population growth, specifically, scarcity and carrying capacity. As adults, we understand that most resources are finite, there is only so much to distribute. As the population increases and the demand for resources increase, people get less, or they make choices about how they consume resources. I was looking for a way to make my point, get the big idea across and then I realized I already had the vehicle to teach the lesson – MacDonald’s Happy Meal toys. Yep, I used McD’s Happy Meal toys in class.
It started Thanksgiving weekend when I discovered O’s happy meal toy. It was a toy football player with a football. It was not your typical McD Happy Meal toy; it was really cool looking and branded by the NFL – that is National Football League, not the No Fun League. The toy she had was the San Diego Charger and it wore sunglasses and flip-flops along with the NFL team colors, it had a football, which could be placed on one of the toys hands and then you could whack the other hand and fling the football several feet. I looked at the packaging and discovered there were more – they had one for every team, and every team was different. By the time, we returned from our trip Friday night, we had a few more – an Atlanta Falcon, a New England Patriot, and a Jacksonville Jaguar. It was that weekend when O’s my collection obsession began and it grew until last week, on Wednesday, when I bought my last toy. By that time, I had found 27 of the 32 teams (though I had many more than 27) and we were missing the Raven, the Ram, the Redskin, the Bronco, and the Buccaneer.
On the way to school Wednesday morning, I stopped and ordered a sausage and egg McMuffin and six toys. Thankfully, you can purchase the toys separately without a happy meal – which is a good thing. The trouble with this whole obsession collection thing was that McD and the NFL had cleverly decided they would make life difficult for everyone and package the toys in blue bags, so the children consumer could not see what was inside. When they got their meal, or bag with six toys, they had to open the bag to discover they now owned a sixth Tennessee Titan or Philadelphia Eagle! Aaarrrggghhhh! this collection obsession thing was turning me into a desperate pirate! Then I opened the first bag – and shiver me timbers it was a Buccaneer complete with a peg leg and eye patch. I saved the other five for geography class and ate my McMuffin.
When class began – it began as it normally does, attendance, but I had a couple of toys on my desk, which no one noticed. I got their attention and started the story of the San Diego Charger and beginning the collection obsession. They were tuned in and listening. I showed them a couple more toys and then I told them about breakfast and shared that I now had 28 of the 32 toys. That was when I asked them the question; “What concept am I experiencing right now?” I told the students to take 60 seconds to review their notes and talk at their tables – I do this often, it helps the reluctant learners and the rapid learners alike. Normally, I might have gotten a little buzz, but the class was alive. When my 60 second buzzer went off I had at least 15 hands waving me in the face begging to be called on – they knew, they really knew. “Scarcity,” they responded. I asked several students to explain the concept and they did so better than any other group of students had been able to before. They had a test Thursday, and most students aced it. They knew the material and even though the McD Happy Meal toys lesson was only small concept, only one question, I think it made a difference. I auctioned off the remaining toys bags to my students to open – they opened and I kept the toy. The bags contained, are you ready? Four more Buccaneers and a Cleveland Brown. I was disappointed in my booty, but not in what they learned.
The best part of the lesson was seeing the engagement and excitement. There was a side benefit, one of the students volunteered he had a Raven at home and promised to bring it in for me. I offered a trade, but he told me he’d give it to me – straight up. The next morning, I shared with the class I missed an opportunity in class to talk to them about the deeper issues of supply and demand and the relationship to price. It was beyond what I needed to teach, but they understood that, too. I haven’t gotten the Raven yet, the student was absent and, I still don’t have the Ram, the Redskin, or the Bronco either. I suppose I’ll have to settle for an incomplete collection, or resort to E-Bay where market conditions kick in.
It was a good week. There are five days left before break and the students are well aware of how much time we have. This week will be a good week. We are learning about physical geography of the USA, Canada, and Mexico in geography and writing a historical narrative in ELA. There are other activities going on to keep learning going and the time will fly. Time is scarce, too I only get so much and I am busy Making the Days Count, rather than counting the days.
Today is Sunday and it snowed yesterday. We got the Christmas tree up and it is beautiful. I helped, but B is the driving force behind the Christmas tree. Today I will take O shopping for momma and her brother, then I will take W shopping for momma and her sister. It is easier shopping separately than together, trust me. I have work to do and a few other tasks to keep me busy, to keep us all busy. It’s gonna be a great day, I know it, so I had better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day a time, even one happy meal at a time.
What do you get obsessed about? Have you ever had an obsessive collection disorder?