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Friday, December 18, 2009


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Crazy Hair Day versus the Nobel Peace Prize

The timing was amusingly coincidental. I had just finished listening to a re-broadcast of President Obama accepting the Nobel Peace Prize when the email arrived from my daughter’s second grade teacher. “Because the children have done so many good deeds and acts of kindness recently, tomorrow is going to be Crazy Hair Day,” she wrote. I couldn’t resist replying immediately. “Crazy Hair Day? And all President Obama got for his good deeds and acts of kindness was the Nobel Prize!”

Of course, as he said, his deeds are still in progress. Maybe Crazy Hair Day at the White House is yet to come.

I have every confidence that the teachers at my kids’ school know far more about children than I do, but I’m frequently surprised by how they reward large-scale good behavior. I think one reason this has become such a prominent issue recently is that a couple of years ago, it became widespread policy that classroom celebrations - ranging from individual kids’ birthdays to Halloween and Valentine’s parties – would be snack-free. As a result, the teachers now strive harder to find ways to mark celebrations that once would have simply required cupcakes or doughnut holes.

It seems that every few months both of my kids’ classes earn a special celebration for good behavior. Holly’s classroom created a “compliment chain,” to which a paper link was added whenever children earned compliments. (I think it would be kind of fun to do the reverse as well - ruthlessly rip paper links off the chain when a child merited an insult - but as far as I know, that is not considered an effective classroom discipline method.) Little did I know, when I wrote to Holly’s teacher after supervising a half-hour indoor recess duty to say how impressed I was with the kids’ resourcefulness and overall good behavior, that they would earn four compliments as a result. I’m not sure how my words were parsed out into exactly four compliments (though knowing me, it’s likely that I used four complimentary adjectives, and probably at least that many adverbs), but I was happy to be an agent of their success as they worked toward the next big event.

And now they’ve reached their big reward: Crazy Hair Day. This is the first crazy hair day they’ve had this year; other analogous rewards in both kids’ classes over the years have included Pajama Day, Stuffed Animal Day and Movie Hour. Pajama Day has never been a favorite of mine. First of all, every year I assume it’s the last grade in which this reward will be bestowed; but so far we haven’t aged out yet. I think fifth-graders are too old to wear pajamas to school. I also think it’s unsanitary to have pajama pant cuffs drifting across the bathroom and cafeteria floors, although I can see the argument that it’s no different from other clothing in that respect. Pajamas just seem more porous somehow. And I’m always concerned my kids will forget they wore those same pajamas to school and go to bed in them that night, cafeteria crumbs and all. Ick. Stuffed Animal Day is fine with me - innocuous and cute, in my opinion - but the occasional lice outbreak often curtails the presence of any extraneous items with soft, absorbent surfaces in the classroom.

All of these rewards are optional on the kids’ part. Holly said last night she couldn’t decide whether she’d do Crazy Hair Day or not, and when she left for school this morning it looked to me like she’d made a compromise along the lines of Uncombed Hair Day. But it made me think about all the rewards I could benefit from, if my friends and I decided to start rewarding ourselves with theme days rather than whipped-cream-topped coffee drinks. Frizzy Hair Day would be great in the middle of August. I Feel Fat Day would suit me just fine in early January, and Wear Your Oldest Clothes Day would make me feel a little less insecure about my wardrobe.

President Obama looked pleased with his Nobel Prize, but his acceptance speech underscored how much work he believes he still needs to do in order to be truly deserving of it. Holly had no such reservations about Crazy Hair Day. She seemed certain that her class earned its 100 compliments.

I hope Crazy Hair Day is enough fun that it serves to motivate Holly and her classmates onto greater accomplishments. Who knows, maybe someday she’ll accept a Nobel Prize of her own. And maybe that will even inspire her to comb her hair. Or else ask the King and Queen of Norway if they’d consider proclaiming a nationwide Pajama Day instead. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito