The Money Game

Might I Have Your Attention?

Many high schools structure their class schedule on the “factory model” in which students move through a number of different, discrete disciplines each day: History, Math, Art, English, etc. Administrators might tinker with the length or arrangement of the classes, but the basic concept remains the same.

The factory model has its merits, but inevitably it creates what a former colleague of mine dubbed “baloney time,” that five minutes or so at the beginning of class when students settle into their desks, unload their backpacks, chat with each other, check their phones, ask what the homework was for Bio, and so on. (Baloney time exists at the end of class as well, but that’s a different story.)

In addition to the mechanics of baloney time, I found that my students sometimes struggled with the intellectual and emotional transitions of going from say, flunking a Calculus test to warming up their vocal cords, or deciphering a passage in “Hamlet” to playing Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight.” At the beginning of class or rehearsal, I typically would ask them where they were coming from, how their day was going, what class they had after mine. It was a way of acknowledging that their hearts and minds might be elsewhere and to get a sense of how engaged they might be.

Then one day about ten years ago, I randomly and without much forethought, started a Music Theory class with what became known as The Money Game.