Mrs. E used to carry around a clipboard of recycled paper which she would use to tally up the points we earned for good behavior. Once we reached one hundred she would give us a penny with a single splat of red nail polish. Later we could use these pennies to purchase prizes from a file cabinet that was filled with the kind of stuff you'd find in a homeless man's shopping cart. Things that, under different circumstances, would have been remarkably unexciting to us but that had magically accrued in value simply because she was "selling" them. There were foreign coins in there, iron on patches, soap, and random odds and ends she found in the garbage on the way to school.
Ordinarily, it might have been incredibly offensive to be rewarded for hard earned academic achievement with an iron on patch in the shape of Louisiana but it was easy to see that these things really meant something to her. And even if we laughed at her eccentric teaching methods, we secretly shared this inexplicable longing for those red dotted pennies. Of course we could just as easily buy nail polish from the dollar store and paint some pennies as we could steal goods from peoples’ trash. But we did neither. Receiving crap in exchange for answering a question correctly was called fifth grade; going out of your way to gain set of “previously owned” pool balls, however, was just plain sad...This is how you teach children to be honest.
Twice a day she would stop teaching and announce it was time for a “bathroom break”. Wasting class time as a rule was fantastic, so this might have been a glorious tradition, had she not insisted on lining us up in single file and walking us there together. To be seen walking single file behind your teacher in fifth grade, alone, is incredibly mortifying. To be seen trailing behind your teacher for a “bathroom break” was on whole other level of mortification. The store of crap was one thing but this was another and it was becoming increasingly apparent that she needed to be taught a lesson.