Thursday, March 25, 2010

Going Once... Going Twice... Sold!

Once a month, the counselor comes into all of my classes for the day. The arrangement allows her to meet with her entire caseload somewhat regularly. About half the time she conducts class meetings using Glasser's model, but she also uses the time for other mandated topics as well, such as career exploration, internet safety, academic planning and scheduling. Occasionally she plans activities that help the kids explore their values, and that was what we did today.

The premise was an auction. Each student had 50,000 dollars to spend on one or more items on a list of twenty-five. Once we explained how an auction worked, we left the strategy up to them. Here's what they could bid on in increments of $100.00:

A new home, fully furnished
Good looks
A happier family
Excellent grades
A complete wardrobe of beautiful clothes
Lots of friends
The trust and respect of their peers
The trust and respect of adults
A clean earth
A room of their own
Good health for their family
The chance to travel the world
Success in sports
Twenty four hours to do exactly what you want
World peace
Guaranteed success in marriage or partnership
A successful career
A chance to help people
A trip to the moon
A TV of their own
A cure for cancer
The chance to meet any celebrity of their choice
Freedom and dignity for all people
An education at the college of their choice

To begin with, they had to write down the items that were of interest to them, and figure out a ballpark amount that they were willing to spend, but none of that planning was binding. Sixth graders must be the perfect age for this activity: they immediately shed their disbelief and behaved as if they were really competing to buy these things.

As the day went on students entered already excited about what they had heard of the lesson. One of our rules was that no one could express judgment at what other people bought, but once the auction got going, it was fascinating to see which kids valued what, and how much they were willing to spend of their imaginary money.

As Virginia Woolf might have predicted, the room of their own went for over 20,000 bucks every time; that college education and a cure for cancer never sold for less than the full fifty grand. In each class there was a poignant bidding war for a happier family, and there were some altruistic kids who bid only on a clean or peaceful earth, or freedom and dignity. I was surprised at a couple who fell into that category and glad to be reminded of that sweet side to them. Of course success in sports and the chance to meet a celebrity were very popular items, but my heart went out to those who way overspent for good looks or popularity, and especially to the diligent kid who bid thousands for the excellent grades he already works so hard for.


  1. This really made me think about my priorities. I would bid my whole wad on one category that is up there... but I'm too afraid to say what it is. I might try this in my classroom. Thanks.

  2. How fun that your class did that and what an interesting viewpoint you got to see - what they truly value.

  3. Love this activity. Students never cease to impress and amaze me. I love that about teaching.

  4. Okay I'm PRETTY SURE I did this in sixth and grade and that the whole thing fell apart when we started to wonder if it really mattered who bought the world peace because doesn't everyone get it no matter who buys it? And then since we brought it up we had to question the whole activity. I am still bitter.

  5. Oh how jaded you were. In our group we applauded and thanked those who purchased world peace and a clean earth for the rest of us... they knew what they were doing, and rather than view it as a waste, they bid for the symbolic honor of being able to provide those things.

  6. This is very cool. The list made me think about what I might bid for, even at my old and ancient age, having achieved some of those things.

    Great post!