The Biggest Loser · 28 March 2015

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I wanted to be the biggest loser. Not on the TV show or anything like that. I just wanted to have the most quarters, which would mean I was the biggest loser.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. Or at least the middle.

Our school, the one with March Magnanimous well under way, is having a fund-raising campaign. It is called Be the Change. (Everything must have a cute little name these days, especially in school campaigns.) Anyway, the goal is for each first period class to collect the most change that will then go through Free the Children ( to a sister village, Kipsongal, Kenya.

I must admit. There are only a few causes that I really get behind at school. There are many worthy, but I just have too much stuff to do in class. (Do not listen to those students who say that I just wander around. After all, I say that I will wander around and help the folks out.) Besides, when the morning announcements are read over the intercom, I get so busy taking roll and quieting people down enough for others to be able to listen that I sometimes miss what is said. Not that I could not just read them, of course. Suffice it to say that I am not always on every, if any, bandwagon.

But there is something to this change thing.

I was actually intrigued when I heard the rules. (Believe it or not, during the announcements.) They were saying that each first period class would accumulate points based on the number of cents brought in. One point for a penny, five points for a nickel, ten points for a dime, fifty points for a fifty cent piece, and one-hundred points for a dollar, etc. I was incensed. They left out the quarter. How could they leave out the quarter? I could not understand it. Until they pointed out that quarters were negative. People could put quarters into anybody’s jars to negate any accumulated points. So quarters were negative twenty-five points. I got excited.

Needless to say, I was a late starter. True, I was gone one day of this week-long campaign. But I made up some ground. I used my swear jar money.

(I suppose I should not out myself, but I cannot help it. I have a swear jar. Students who swear during class have the options of detention (the punishment prescribed by the school rules), doing twenty-five pushups, or putting a quarter into the swear jar. Furthermore, they do not get to use the Lord’s name in vain in my class or around me. I tell them that using Jesus, Jesus Christ, or God as swear words is not allowed in my classroom because they do not get to use my Lord’s name in vain. (I include OMG which is usually said in its full form.) The money has gone to different organizations around the school throughout the years, but I decided that I would put the accumulated money into the Be the Change jar. Naturally, it was mostly quarters. It could have been more, but most swearers choose to do pushups.)

I told all of my classes that I was not accustomed to jumping on the bandwagon for even good causes, but I could get on this one. After all, raising money for a sister village is something worthwhile. But I wanted to get behind the change campaign in a different way.

Contrary to my wife’s opinion, I think I am a clever guy. Not funny, but clever. So I figured that since people like to do quirky things, they could get behind a drive for negative points. And since it would put my first period class out there for all to see (they announced the top and bottom of the drive each day), I figured I could get my class to have the most negative points. So I told all of my classes that I just wanted quarters.

Most of my students thought it was fun. They donated quarters to see how my negative points would accumulate. But to my chagrin, I had people put in other coins as well.

At first it was just a few coins from one student, but on the last day, another student brought in a whole jar. I doubt if there were any quarters in there. Being in first period, she must have figured she could get our class back to zero and save some dignity. That would have been my first guess except that she grinned one of those mischievous grins that said otherwise. She just wanted to ruin my plans. I thought, “Curses, foiled again.”

As the week drew to a close, I heard funny stories about the change drive. Classes of students went into the change leaders’ classrooms to give them some negative points. Quarters were being deposited into change jar after change jar. Thousands of points were going down the drain. (There must be a math problem there somewhere.) And people were having fun.

I also heard a very strange thing.

Our National Honor Society (NHS) was running the change campaign. The NHS president, Halsey, told me, as I was ranting that I should be near last place with all those quarters I had (from a few years of accumulating swearing quarters), that I was not the only one running a campaign for most negative points. Several teachers were trying to have the dubious honor of having the least (most negative) points. (There is definitely a math problem there.) She even told me that NHS had debated on whether to have a prize for most negative points, but decided against it. (They probably should have coupled it with the teacher pie in the face contest.) I could hardly believe my ears when Halsey told me the news. No wonder I was not the negative leader.

Curses, foiled again.

Even though I was not unique, I had fun with our change drive. It was something that at least a few of my students enjoyed donating to and most enjoyed hearing about. One of my students even came in toward the end of the last day after school was over to help my negative total with a few handfuls of quarters.

In the end, it does not really matter who won or lost the coin drive. What matters is that a bunch of coins were donated to a worthy cause (over 2000 dollars worth). People on the other side of the world will know that somebody else cares about their health and well being. And the students and staff of our great school will have affirmed once again that they are wonderful human beings who genuinely like one another.

When all was said and done, I actually did have the most quarters or the fewest (most negative) points. My students and I had fun for a worthy cause. And for once, I got to be the biggest loser.

© 2015 Michael T. Miyoshi

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