In the spirit of “War” and “Old Maid,” I present a card game called “Teaching.”
(Note: there is something inherently icky about symbolizing students with numbers or, in this case, playing cards. I didn’t create this game to imply that students are merely numbers or that some students are “worth more” than others. Rather, I created this game in an effort to illustrate the challenges intrinsic to teaching in an era when students are seen by policymakers as little more than test scores. Like the game of “War,” this card game is an imperfect and unavoidably crude representation of a much more complex reality. You should take it in the light-hearted spirit in which it is intended.)
1 blue deck of cards
1 red deck of cards
1 notepad or scratch paper
1 pencil or pen
1. This can be for one player (a la “Solitaire”) or for multiple players. Each player will need his or her own decks of cards. You can share the die.
2. To begin, roll the die to determine what kind of school you work in.
If you rolled a “1 or a 2,” you work in a low-funded school.
If you rolled a “3 or a 4,” you work in an average-funded school.
If you rolled a “5,” you work in a “no excuses” school.
If you rolled a “6,” you work in an elite school.
3. On your paper, note which kind of school you work at. You will need to know this later.
4. Ready your deck.
If you work in a low-funded school, you will most likely be teaching a lower percentage of students who come from privileged backgrounds. As a result, you must remove the following cards from the blue deck and put them on the bottom of the deck: the A, K, Q, J, and 10 of spades and hearts.
If you work in an average-funded school, you will use the whole blue deck.
If you work in a “no excuses” school, you will need to have a lottery to determine which cards you play with. Shuffle the blue deck and then deal it into two stacks. Without looking at the cards in either stack, place one on top of the other. The cards near the top are the lottery winners.
If you work in an elite school, you will most likely be teaching a lower percentage of students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. As a result, you must remove the following cards from the blue deck and put them on the bottom of the deck: the 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of spades and hearts.
5. Roll the die again, this time to determine your Teacher Quality Level.
If you rolled a “1,” you are a Clock Puncher.
If you rolled a “2,” you are a Pushover.
If you rolled a “3,” you are an Enthusiastic Intern.
If you rolled a “4,” you are a Solid Performer.
If you rolled a “5,” you are a Great Teacher.
If you rolled a “6,” you are Inspirational Movie Material.
6. On your paper, write your Teacher Quality Level beneath your type of school.
7. Next, you will deal cards from the blue deck representing the starting points of your students. The number of students you must take to mastery depends on the type of school you work in.
If you work in a low-funded school, deal 30 cards face up.
If you work in an average-funded school, deal 24 cards face up.
If you work in a “no excuses” school, deal 24 cards face up. (Self-selection and motivation bonus: you may replace any “2″ cards that you deal with another randomly selected card from the deck.)
If you work in an elite school, deal 15 cards face up.
8. Take the remainder of the blue deck (the cards that you did not just deal face-up) and shuffle it thoroughly. This will be your Value-Added draw pile. Place it face down in front of you.
9. The point of the game is to get as many of your students as possible (represented by the face-up cards you just dealt) to “mastery” before time runs out. Mastery is the equivalent of 14 points. The 2 card through the 10 card are all worth their face value. Face cards are worth the following: Jack (11 points), Queen (12 points), King (13 points), and Ace (14 points).
10. The red deck of cards represents “Factors Outside Your Control.” Shuffle this deck and place it face down beside the blue Value-Added draw pile.
11. Begin each turn by rolling the die. This will determine what kind of day you are having. Bad teachers can have good days and good teachers can have bad days. You will add the result of your roll each turn to the factor related to your Teacher Quality Level.
Clock-Puncher = 1
Pushover = 2
Enthusiastic Intern = 3
Solid Performer = 4
Great Teacher = 5
Inspirational Movie Material = 6
12. The sum of your die roll plus your Teacher Quality Level will give you a number ranging from 2 through 12. This number will determine how many cards you get to play from the blue Value-Added draw pile for the current turn. If the sum is:
2-5, then you get to draw one card
6-9, then you get to draw two cards
10-11, then you get to draw three cards
12, then you get to draw four cards
13. In general, you will take the cards you drew in step (12) and play them face-up on top of the cards laid out earlier that represent the students in your class; play them so that you can see both cards. Values are cumulative (if you have a “3″ in your “classroom” and play a “5″ on top of it, that student is now an “8″), so you need to see the values of all cards. You can play as many cards as you want on top of a single “student”. Your goal is to get each student to 14 points. But, wait. You can’t play the cards you drew just yet.
14. Each round, before you are allowed to play any of the cards you just drew from the blue “Value-Added” draw pile, you must turn over one card from the red “Factors Outside Your Control” deck. These cards will impact your play every turn. The “Factors Outside Your Control” are:
A = Student Assembly; return all Value-Added cards you just drew back to the draw pile and skip this turn.
Q, K = Chronic Absenteeism; your lowest-value “student” card is absent this day. You can’t play any cards atop this card for this turn. (If you draw more than one Q or K during a turn, then multiple students are absent and their progress is therefore frozen. These must be your lowest-value cards.) *See “house rule” at the end.
J = Normal School Day; play your cards as normal.
10 = Benchmarking; return all Value-Added cards you just drew back to the draw pile and skip this turn.
9 = Drama and Distraction; return the two highest Value-Added cards you just drew back to the draw pile. (If you only drew one card, return it to the draw pile.)
8 = Student Mobility; remove your highest value “student” (whether a single card or a cumulative total) and replace with a card drawn from the top of the blue deck. Shuffle the card (or cards) you removed from play back into the blue deck.
7 = Substitute; return all but your lowest Value-Added cards to the draw pile. (If you only drew one Value-Added card, you don’t have to return any cards to the pile and may play your card as normal.)
6 = Normal School Day; play your cards as normal.
5 = Field Trip; draw an extra Value-Added card (in addition to the ones you already drew) and play it only on your “student” card with the lowest current value.
4 = Meltdown; remove all previously-played Value-Added cards from the “student” who has made the most points-gain since the beginning of the game. Shuffle those cards into the blue deck. (Note: It isn’t the number of cards played or the total value, but the value-added that counts here. For example, if you had one “student” card that started as a 4 and you have added a 6 and a 2 [for a grand total of 12, but a value-add of 8] but you have another “student” that started as a 2 and you have played a single 10 on top of that card, you would remove the 10 and return it to the deck. The original “student” card remains on the table and returns to its original value.)
3 = Dropout; turn your “student” (card or stack of cards) with the lowest current point value face-down.
2 = High-Quality Professional Development; double the number of Value-Added cards you get to play this round.
1 = Low-Quality Professional Development; return the highest of the Value-Added cards you were supposed to play this round to the blue deck. If you were only supposed to play one Value-Added card, return it to the deck.
15. Play lasts 20 rounds. At the end of 20 rounds, add up your score:
4 points for every “student” whose cumulative point total is worth 14 points or better
-4 points for every “student” whose cumulative point total is worth 13 points or less
2 points for every “student” card whose value increased by more than 8 points during play
-2 points for every “dropout” you have at the end of play
If playing against other people, the highest score wins.
If playing alone:
If you score at least 10 points, you win Merit Pay.
If you score more than 0 but less than 5, you get a Growth Plan.
If you score less than 0, you lose.
This game hasn’t been tested and refined yet. The point totals at the end might be way off and/or unrealistic.
*I started to allow people who work at a “No Excuses” school to Expel their lowest value card (or stack) anytime they draw a Q or K from the red pile (see ‘Chronic Absenteeism’ above). Originally I was going to let them place these “Expelled” cards face up in the “classroom” of an opponent of their choosing who teaches at low-funded or average-funded schools. I ultimately decided that this rule was too harsh. Players might want to consider it as a “house rule.”