My Year 3 class were studying the Christian parable of the talents, in which servants are given different amounts of money by their master and challenged to use it wisely (two of them do, but the third buries it, wasting the opportunity). I thought it would be great to see if my pupils would take such an opportunity if I gave them all a pound. Since the lesson coincided with Comic Relief, I decided I could risk my money, and any loss would feel like giving.
I typed a letter home and wrote a lesson plan. I explained that Christians believe that God expects them to make the most of their opportunities, and, to help the children understand, they would be given an opportunity to be responsible for something important - my money! I set the expectation that they would return the pound;1 after two weeks, and challenged them to think about further opportunities this pound;1 would give them.
Satisfied that they had the idea, I set them off and held my breath. Two weeks came and went. Ten pupils returned their pound;1 with stories of keeping it under their pillow, or hiding it in a sock drawer. The other 18 had all done something with their money. There was the girl who used it to buy ingredients to make samosas, then sold them at a disgustingly exorbitant price to her close relatives. Another pupil made 93p by charging her parents to walk up and down the stairs to see the coin. There were penalty shoot-outs, dancing competitions, shows and much more. I got my pound;28 back plus another pound;45 for Comic Relief.
I was careful to emphasise the role of those who had looked after their pound;1. If they had lost it, we would have had to eat into the profits.
They might not have had the opportunity this time, but would they take it when they did?
All this left me with a question of my own. What will I do with the opportunities I have every day in my classroom? Will I blame a hundred different pressures and bury them in the drawer marked "too risky", or will I take a chance?
Pete Greaves teaches at Coleman Primary School, Leicester