23 December 2010

The Parable of Noel and the elusive Ice Cream Sandwich

Noel came in around 7:15 and, as always, turned in his lunch money, as required, to his 4th grade teacher.  He then gave her a roll of pennies. Fifty cents that he'd collected from chores he'd done at home.
"That's for ice cream today," he beamed. "It's Friday and I'm celebrating."
"Hey, that's great!" said the Teacher.

Classwork began and around 10:00 the Teacher stepped out of the classroom.  A few minutes later she cleared her throat and asked for the students' attention.
"Children, Noel is celebrating today with ice cream!"  An immediate roar went up as the kids turned to smile and nod approvingly at Noel.

The Teacher reached into the hallway and retrieved a serving tray containing perfectly even slices of ice cream sandwich...each with a handy toothpick.

Noel's heart sank to his stomach.  What was this?  A misunderstanding!  The ice cream money was a treat for himself, not the whole class.  But he stayed quiet and smiled a little at the other happy classmates.

The Teacher passed down the rows, each child taking a single taste of ice cream sandwich.  Noel was happy to see that when the Teacher came to him after the rest had been served, there were several pieces remaining.  He reached to take one and then another.

"Oh, no Noel...take only one.  It's only fair that each student get the same amount."
Unhappily, but quiet, Noel popped the small bit of ice cream sandwich in his mouth and scowled.  But all the other children, whose attention had been turned toward the teacher at this point, nodded in agreement.  None of them were really very happy with the tiny treat after all.  It was just too small to enjoy.

Noel took out a book from home he'd chosen for reading and sank into a story about a red hen.

In a few minutes he saw from his vantage point at the back of the classroom, the Teacher gobbled up the remaining ice cream and tossed away the platter.  Some of the kids were grumbling and playing pirates with the sword-like toothpicks instead of doing school work.
"Children, please put away your toothpicks!" exclaimed the Teacher.  "Those are dangerous!"

After the toothpicks were packed away, most everyone, except Noel, forgot about the morning treat.

The next Friday, Noel brought in two shiny quarters, a gift from Grandma.  "Don't spend it all in one place!" she'd joked.
Noel delivered his lunch money to the Teacher and explained, "This extra fifty cents is for me...just me.  For ice cream.  Okay?"
The Teacher said, without looking up, "I will save this money just for you...yes.  I will put it in the ice cream envelope with your name on it and you can use it at lunch."  But, to Noel she seemed to be distracted by some noisy children.

Sometime around ten, Danielle raised her hand and interrupted the flow of everything by asking the Teacher, "Are we having ice cream again today like we did last Friday?"  She had a toothpick in her upraised hand...found just a moment before in her desk.

"No!" Noel coughed out involuntarily.

The entire class whirled around to glare at Noel.  "That's my ice cream," he said sheepishly.
"Sorry class," the Teacher said, "it seems that Noel doesn't want to share this week."
"Aw!" whined the disappointed classroom.  Ugly glances and snarky comments were muttered under breath all around.
"That's not fair," said Danielle.  "Why does Noel get to have ice cream and none of us?  Make him share!"
The Teacher listened to the grumbling from the class for several minutes before giving in.
"Okay, okay," she said, arms upraised in a quiet-down motion.  "Everyone pipe down and I'll take care of it."
The Teacher swiftly returned after a brief absence with a tray of tiny treats just like the week before.  As she doled out the ice cream, Danielle turned to Noel and said, "you are so selfish...but we got ice cream anyway so..." and out came her ugly pink tongue.
Laughter bubbled up all around as the class jeered Noel because of his selfishness and the tiny treat because it was "lame anyway."  One kid flicked his ice cream at another...and several joined in, making a mess and wasting the treat.

Noel endured the silent treatment from several 'friends' at lunch.  For the second week in a row he had not gotten his ice cream sandwich treat.

The next Friday came and predictably Danielle was the one to raise the morning treat question.
"I'm sorry class.  Noel didn't bring the money for the treat party this week."
An uproar ensued from the entire class.  Spitballs, airplanes, name-calling...angry looks.

The Teacher listened to the grumbling from the class for several minutes before giving in.
"Okay, okay," she said, arms upraised in a quiet-down motion.  "Everyone pipe down and I'll take care of it."
Once again, she passed out tiny bits of ice cream sandwich.
"Noel, we'll just subtract that from your lunch money.  You'll need to skip lunch today or bring in more money on Monday to make up the difference."

"Well, that's not fair," Noel complained.  "I don't have any more ice cream money."

"That's the way it is.  Your class expects this every week now so you need make sure you bring it in."

Frustrated and angry, Noel worked doubly hard at chores and lawn mowing to bring in a dollar on the following Friday.  "Maybe if I bring it more, they'll be satisfied," he thought.

The next Friday, he brought in his dollar and turned it in dutifully.
When the teacher brought in the ice cream mid-morning, there was only one ice cream sandwich cut up.

Noel decided he would eat a big breakfast and never give over his money to the teacher again, no matter how much abuse it meant from the rest of the 'less fortunate.'