Teaching Character Education at the elementary school, the monthly trait is honesty. So I kick it off with my story of when I was 6 and stole a pack of Juicy Fruit from a Wal-Mart.
Kids love that story. Shoplifting kills, apparently. I took the gum, got it all the way home, then pretended to find it in the car. Then my mom dragged me back to the Wal-Mart, where I had to tell the manager I stole from him, return the gum, and apologize – all while bawling my eyes out.
I never forgot it, it was traumatic, impactful and I never stole anything ever again.
The kids are absolutely wide-eyed. They appear traumatized, too. One little boy says he can’t take listening to the story, while another says how scary it is. Good. I’m changing the name of this thing to “Character Ed: Scared Straight.”
But…there’s always one. A kid wants to know why I didn’t just hide the gum until I got in the house, then nobody would know I even had it.
“I would know,” I say slowly, ominously – a little annoyed that he sliced through the awesome, dramatic tension I’d unintentionally created. To which he just shrugs, and goes back to doodling – no doubt a pack of gum with “Free” written above it.
Then we role play – a girl walks by a $10 bill lying on the ground outside her classroom – what should she do? She says give it to an adult so they can find the owner. But again, Mr. Juicy Fruit raises his hand and says he’d just keep it. Who would know?
Again – you would know. More doodling – my guess, a $10 bill and “Just Do It.”
In the next scenario, a student is trying to get her friend to give her an answer on a test. She says, no, it’s cheating. But ol’ Juicy Fruit has a better idea. Why not give her the wrong answer so she’ll miss it. Great idea. Teach your friend a lesson about cheating … by lying.
Character assassination is one thing, but this is character suicide. I’m actually wondering how many library books this kid’s got past due. I quickly wrap things up, grab my honesty literature and start for the door. But he follows me and asks what if he’s a twin, and his twin commits a crime, but they blame…
I run into the hall and scour the character trait list to see what’s next. Justice. Boy, are we gonna have fun role playing that.