We (as in my students and I) have been learning about the 13 British colonies and the road to revolution. Yesterday, we read about the Stamp, Tea, Sugar, and Quartering Acts. “No taxation without representation”, yo.
A colleague suggested playing a game that would entail taxing our students for certain things, like using a piece of paper, eating an apple, borrowing a pencil, etc. Each tax would fall under the acts they learned about: Stamp: “Pay me for that paper and the holes on the LEFT for the umpteenth time!”; Tea: “You want a drink of water? Pay up!”; Sugar: “Do you really think you need to eat graham crackers right after lunch? Well, then you are gonna pay.”; Quartering: “You wanna move to see the process grid? Well, it’s gonna cost.”
Can you already tell that this was way too much fun for me? Oh, it gets way better.
So, my colleague suggested handing out tokens or play money so the students could pay their taxes. I decided to ump the ante and instead of meaningless tokens, I charged my students their behavior tickets. They earn these with good behavior and they are “spent” on special incentives, like eating lunch with me, extra recess, hat day, etc. They covet, horde, and spend like their lives depend on it. These tickets are everything.
Well, after explaining the rules and the “game”, my students were pumped. It sounded fun, right?
Then, I dropped the bomb that some of them would be colonists and some would be the British. Hence, only the colonists would need to pay to borrow a pencil. This changed a few attitudes about the game.
I pulled name sticks to decide who would be who. Guys, you would have thought that we were drawing for the Powerball or the damn gallows. Good Lord. It was so entertaining.
There were kids praying, doing the sign of the cross, and crossing fingers, toes, and eyes. I even saw sweaty upper lips and some nervous tears.
When all was settled, the British were gloating and the colonists were pouting and nervously counting their precious tickets. Suddenly, a timid voice, “What if we don’t have any tickets?”
I answered, “Ah ha! What happened to debtors in England? Where did they go to “pay” their debts?”
Utter and total fear. They thought they were going to Debtor’s Prison. I’m not so wicked that I allowed them to really think this, so I made it clear no one was going to rot in prison, but if you were in debt, every ticket or tax would equal one minute of recess time.
King George was a real meanie.
At one point, a Brit was slowly, deliberately eating an apple, gloating to all who had to pay or not eat. The response by one of my most passionate students, “Quit eating your apple at me! It’s not fair!”
One of my students asked me if I was really going to keep their tickets. I told them I hadn’t decided. They responded with, “That is not fair!” I said, “I am King George, I don’t have to be fair.”
It was hysterically awesome.
I know. I am so mean.
As ticket after ticket passed hands, anger starting brewing. My students started making protest signs. They said:
“No more paying!”
“Pleas no mor!”
“No taxation without representation!”
The British even made their own signs. Who is wicked now?
For one of my students, it was just too much. He couldn’t even get up off the floor, from the shock of it all. Another student yelled, “Alex died!”
The whole.flipping.time. I was dying inside laughing. The passion in their eyes, the utter fear of missing out on “Skip Morning Work” opportunities because they had no more tickets was amusing. The reason? I saw a fire in my students I don’t get to see often.
But, guess what? These students will always and forever know what it means to stand up for what you believe in and how and why our country gained its independence.