Gist: Third-grade politics gets real—especially when Legos are involved.
Frankly: "In the elementary school where I teach, there are Legos that are very valuable, and Legos no-one gives a shit about." Third-grade teacher Micaela Blei has a pretty strong opening game in "Lego Crimes," her story for The Moth. It makes me laugh, because we had a big basket of Lego when I was a kid. Due to my being child number four, it was an assorted mash-up of Lego hand-me-downs. And like at Micaela's school, some of the little plastic blocks were highly prized, and others, well others, none of us gave a shit about.
Going from the highly scientific reference points of my own personal experience and this one other story, I think the rules of Lego valuation are universal. The grey, black and red ones are worthless. Anything brightly colored is much better. And the little transparent ones are (figuratively speaking) gold. Or, as Micaela's students called them, "jewels." "They really look valuable," Micaela says. "I mean, I'm kind of psyched about them too." I hear you, Micaela.
Every week, the students take Legos from their grade cubbies outside the classroom, and every Friday, dismantle their creations to redistribute the blocks for next time. It's a good economy. Except one day, the second graders come to Micaela, saying someone is stealing their jewels. They accuse a bunch of boys in Micaela's class she calls "the Black Hole Boys," the ones who build intricate spacecrafts while obsessively discussing the physics of deep space.
Micaela insists it couldn't be true, and asks Edward, their leader, who politely proclaims his innocence. "Have you tried the fourth graders?" he says. "Those guys think they're really big." Relieved (because she loves the Black Hole Boys,) Michaela asks the fourth graders, who accuse the second graders of lying.
"There's a culture of fear developing," she says. "No one trusts each other." And meanwhile, the "jewels" keep vanishing from the cubbies, one by one. It's like a spy thriller. In some ways, the stakes are ever quite as high again as they are when you're nine.
Then, one day, Micaela finds a "jewel-encrusted spaceship" in Edward's cubby. It's a dilemma. "If I accuse him, number one, the second-graders are kind of intense and I'm a little worried about what they would do. Number two…this is my reputation on the line."
She considers stealing it back, but realizes, "That could be framing another kid, and I do have my line." So she waits for Friday, and casually reminds Edward to take apart his spaceship. The secret one.
"I did," he says. Lying! Brazenly! She confronts him with the ship in all its glory, congratulates him on it, and then cuts a deal: each week, they slowly dismantle it and she stealthily returns the "jewels" to the other classes' cubbies. Edward gets to keep his rep, and so does she. It's a win-win. Although, as Micaela says, "I was an accessory to a third-grade crime; there's no way around that."