The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Fun with Taxes

Today I was a 7th grade history teacher at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High. It was a fun day filled with teaching young men and women why taxes are so important and why the British colonists living in America during the reign of King George III weren’t so down with the whole taxation thing.

In the course of my teaching today, I learned several important things. For one, apparently I am the best sub ever. No, seriously. I had two students leave notes for me telling me so! One note actually said “Your the best sub” and had a picture of a vampire girl (I think) that was a reproduction of a note that a third grader at Stratton gave me a week ago. The other note said, “You’re the best sub-way sandwich. Its actually a chicken bacon ranch sandwich. Eat fresh!”

Okay, I’m taking a lot of interpretive license to determine that both notes were meant to be compliments on my teachings skills, or something like that. I did have several students who, upon seeing me in the room, shouted joyfully and said, “All right, Mr. V! You’re like, the best sub ever!” These are students whose previous experience with me has been a 38-minute class period. Go figure.

Another thing I learned is that the students as MSJHS seem to take great pleasure in repeating stories that I tell them. So when I told one class that the funniest thing I have ever seen, by far, as a substitute was when a short heavy-set 5th grade girl slapped a tall skinny 5th grade girl across the face with her, the heavy-set girl’s, belly, these students all told their friends. So I had to pre-empt my introduction with the statements that yes, this really is my real naturally curly hair and no, I am not going to tell you about the belly-slap. Sadly, most of them knew exactly why I was saying this.

I was able to take a discussion about my hair care products and segue into a discussion about paying sales tax, which led to our actual discussion about taxation in colonial America and a comparison with taxation in 20th and 21st century America. After reading two incredibly brief essays, the students were asked to think about and discuss the following three items:

1) What makes a tax “fair”?
2) If the government stopped providing public goods and services, would we still have them? Why or why not?
3) United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once stated that “taxes are what we pay for a civilised society.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

As I asked these questions and led the discussions, I refused to offer my own opinions, and told the students that I wanted to hear from them and know what they really thought. The responses were interesting. I learned that some of the students had no clue how money was made or what it represented. I learned that most of them didn’t understand the concept of privatisation. And I learned that, by and large, the students have a lot of trust in the government to be wise stewards of money, even though they don’t trust anyone in the government. No, I don’t know how that works, either.

But it was great having these discussions and seeing how the students debated amongst themselves. It made me realise something important, too. I could handle being a junior high/middle school teacher. So I need to do some research and see if there are online programs that will help me get my middle grade endorsements. Not only will it open job opportunities, but it will also potentially  make me more marketable. That is always a good thing, as I continue on my quest to find full-time employment in the education profession.

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