No, I haven't discovered some sort of magical formula for turning troublesome children into passive vegetables (aside from TV, that is). I suppose a more accurate statement would be "turning students' money into cacti" or possibly even "obtaining money from your students for fun and profit."
At the bottom of this convoluted chain is the fact that my 6th graders are never ever prepared for class. There are always a few in need of writing utensils, and I'm certain that the majority of the class does not have a sheet of paper to their name. I've got a small supply of writing utensils, many of which I've collected from the classroom after the class has been dismissed, but my students were constantly forgetting to return said utensils after they borrowed them. After a while, I started asking for collateral.
Now, I've heard of some teachers making students leave a shoe when they borrow a pencil, but I really wasn't interested in having a desk full of stinky kid shoes. When they asked what I wanted I simply specified that it was to be something that they would miss, leaving them to figure out what to leave with me. Frequently, I get backpacks and binders, but on one occasion a student gave me their cell phone.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my more chronically unprepared students started using money as collateral. Generally he'll give me a dollar, but on one occasion he gave me five. Unfortunately for him, he's also fairly distracted, so he wound up forgetting about his money on two occasions, leaving me with two dollars. Had he brought me a pencil the next class session, I would have gladly given it back, but he seemed to have forgotten all about it.
So, there I was with two dollars of student money that I didn't really know what to do with. I would have felt a little odd spending it on myself, but at the same time the student gave me the dollar for the express purpose of repaying me for the writing utensil he took. Lucky for me, my guilt was alleviated by another one of my students, who was selling cacti for two dollars as a fund raiser for the softball team. Putting the money back into the school seemed like the most appropriate use for it, plus I got something cute for my garden.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you turn students into cacti.