I have a family history of ruthless charity. For nearly 20 years my father, also a teacher, has dominated his school’s food drive, winning year after year through cleverness and deception. I recall there being rumors of a secret deal between my father and the local supermarket, and whole pallets of canned corn showing up in our garage.
I don’t get worked up about much. When it came to competition I tended to enjoy Frisbee more than football. No, like my father before me, my blood sport is charity. My school is holding its annual “Penny War.” For those not familiar with the rules: each class gets a jar; pennies count for the class, while silver subtracts from it.
The fifth grade (and my family) has a reputation to uphold. Last year, it was hard to say when things got out of hand. Was it when I showed up at school in a surplus army helmet? Was it when we dumped $70 worth of silver into the kindergarten jar? Was it when I made a video of my dad, who gave the students tips for collection and then told them I couldn’t have Christmas if I lost? We were so despised by the other classes that it was not a surprise when 5th grade came in dead last with -$70 in our three pickle jars.
I like to play the villain in these events; it gets the kids worked up and in the end brings in more money for our local food pantry. Plus, it inspires kids to think outside the box. The dastardly 6th grade, for example, wrote letters to the businesses downtown asking them to collect on their behalf. I have a feeling that I will be making a video for my students when they come back from Christmas break, where I am out in the cold cooking a hotdog over a coffee can fire while my family opens presents around the tree.