Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Disturbing Discussion

I recently had some lying and stealing and cheating going on in my third grade classroom, so I enlisted the librarian's help on finding some picture books about those topics. Today I read A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban. In this story Frances' friend Thelma tricks Frances into buying Thelma's used, plastic tea set. Frances had been saving her money for a fancy China tea set with blue painting on it, but she is convinced by Thelma that they don't make those tea sets anymore. Frances buys Thelma's old, used tea set, takes it home, gets teased by her little sister about her ugly, plastic tea set, and realizes that she's been tricked. Thelma of course takes the money from Frances and immediately runs to the local candy store and buys herself a fancy China tea set with blue painting on it. When Frances learns about Thelma's new tea set, Frances devises a plan to teach Thelma a lesson and get the fabulous China tea set she wanted in the first place.

So why am I telling you Frances' tale?

...Because of the disturbing discussion I had with my students afterwards, that's why!

First we discussed why Thelma lied to Francis. Then we talked about how Francis felt when her sister made fun of the plastic tea set. Finally, I brought up the question of whether it was a good idea for Frances to teach Thelma a lesson and trick her. I was quite surprised when one of my students said it was fine for Frances to trick Thelma back..."That's called revenge." A group of three or four students then went on to list the reasons why revenge is okay. As one student so plainly put it, "It makes it even."

A few of the kids did say it's not nice to play tricks on people and that you shouldn't do things back to people who bug you, but the pro-revenge group was quite vocal with their ideas. I'm kind of at a lost for what to do next...I thought we had been making progress on our classroom climate, but after today's discussion, I see that I was totally wrong.

Suggestions? Lesson ideas? Cool, kid-friendly websites? Girlie martini recipes for me? :)

-Pigtailed Teacher

PS...I forgot to mention that one of my students rolled up some paper today and pretended to smoke a joint. Oy vay, it's going to be a long year!


  1. After spending a good chunk of my childhood getting picked on and tricked.... I say rock on Club Even Stevens, but being 40 years old and a new mom, something tells me that's not the right answer, but I'm going to check back to find out how you handled it, because as you can probably tell, my attitude could use some restructuring :)

  2. I don't know if this will help much, but it may trigger some ideas. I just happened to come across this video last night:
    It's along the a similar vein- teacher inherited a class of students that had problems getting along and had to develop a classroom culture that would change this. I thought it was interesting, hopefully it will inspire some ideas for your class:)

  3. Thanks j4luck, I'll have to check out the video. Keep the ideas coming!