“N. Pick it up please,” I admonished.
“Pick what up, Ms.?” the little sixth grader answered.
Oh boy, here’s where the lines blur. I was on the bus with one of the sixth grade girls who has gained enough notoriety for her big personality that I knew her name even though it was mid-way through fall semester. One of her friends from a different school was sitting next to her (side note: talk about long commutes — the bus I share with her is her second and I think she rides the one we share to its terminus). Just seconds before she’d finished using a napkin and dropped it behind her seat on the bus. I’m not interested in getting in arguments with kids, least of all outside of school. But I’m also clearly not going to sit there and watch her litter.
“N, you need to pick up your trash that you just threw behind your seat.”
“Aye, Ms.! That’s not fair! Why you gotta make me do that?” she whined. This continued and didn’t seem to be getting us anywhere as I felt the other bus riders nearby start to peek over at us. So I switched to bribery.
“N if you pick up the trash and put it where it goes, I’ll make sure you get a Paw when we get to school tomorrow.” Paws are the reward system that the sixth grade teachers use to encourage good behavior. But really, the system was pretty vague to me — do something good enough times and you get a party. She picked up the trash.
The next day at school I talked to someone who works in the sixth grade about securing a Paw for her. At which point he explained that it is actually pretty hard to get a Paw. They only give them out to people who actually do good things and uphold the school values, not just for undoing something a student never should have done in the first place.
I went down to lunch that day with the bad news. No Paw, despite picking up the trash. She was clearly annoyed and I worried that my inability to deliver on the promised Paw had soured our relationship. I needn’t have worried [she’ll be back in another post].