A few weeks ago, I was struck with some “inspiration” before the kids arrived one morning, and decided to create a Mystery Envelope to add some intrigue to our ever more stale morning routines. The first day I used it was an opportunity for me to recognize Richard’s improvements, and he still talks to this day about when he won his “diploma.” (Today, he announced out of the blue that his baby sister ripped it, but his mom had tape.)
After the Mystery Envelope’s debut, I hung it near our calendar as a reminder that “You never know what’s inside the Mystery Envelope!” and as a somewhat passive message that good things come to those who earn them.
I try to reserve the contents of the Mystery Envelope for the most outstanding performances in kindness and personal improvement, and like to strike when the iron is hot. The iron hasn’t been much hotter than it was yesterday following Tessa’s brilliant display of friendship toward Donald. I knew it would be a good opportunity to keep Tessa on a hot streak.
Before the morning routines, I announced that when we finished our word work, we would be able to see inside the Mystery Envelope. I put some speculation to rest immediately by saying it was a certificate. The only question now was what name was on it. Tessa seemed to know. She said in droll, dismissive voice just loud enough for me to hear: “It’s Richard…again.” I didn’t even acknowledge her.
Halfway through our student-run word work period, I was getting a little antsy. “MYSTERY ENVELOPE, PEOPLE!” I bellowed. The students proceeded to take turns running the class – a little more efficiently – but not without Tessa saying in that droll, dismissive voice just loud enough for me to hear: “It’s Richard…again.” I didn’t even acknowledge her.
Finally, we met the end of the period, and it was time to reveal the contents of the Mystery Envelope. I reminded the students it was a certificate. Excitement built. But not for Tessa.
I didn’t even acknowledge her.
But soon I’d have to.
We had our first chance to talk about the play, and the conversation (intentionally) turned to how Donald was feeling when he discovered no one came to see him. I commended the class for being so supportive of him, and I said there was really one person who stood out as the number one friend. Did anyone know who that might be? The popular consensus was Alvin, who, after the play yesterday, repeated several times in his outside voice that, “My mom didn’t come either and I’m not crying!” I said it wasn’t Alvin, that, while he did a nice job helping Donald out, he was probably the number two. Then I started going student to student, asking them if they knew who I was thinking about. Do you, Donald? No. Do you, Samantha? No. Do you, Dolly? No. Do you, Jasmyn? No.
Tessa was next. I hadn’t looked at her this whole time because I knew I’d give it away.
Do you, Tessa?
Her smile spoke before her words, but when she regained her composure, she said in that same droll voice – with a little more oomph than earlier, and just loud enough for everyone to hear – “It’s me!”
Richard, sitting beside her, opened his arms and drew her in for a hug. The whole class applauded with shock and glee.
There was a certificate with Tessa’s name on it inside the Mystery Envelope today. And it represents so much more than Good Attitude.