If you’re a regular reader of SCM, then you know how I feel about rewarding students in exchange for good (i.e. expected) behavior.
A do-this-and-get-that approach to classroom management is damaging to kids.
It snuffs out intrinsic motivation and turns the student-teacher relationship into a cold-hearted transaction.
It also makes managing your classroom far more difficult in the long run.
I’ve written about this topic extensively in The Happy Teacher Habits as well as in several previous articles.
So I won’t rehash it here.
Suffice it to say, I’ve angered some teachers and educational leaders in the process.
A few have even written bogus reviews of my work in an effort to hurt me. But the future of our children is at stake, so I’m willing to take the heat.
This doesn’t mean, however, that I encourage you to put your own career at risk if you work at a school that mandates the use of external rewards.
Nor do you need to.
The truth is, you can still stay true to yourself and what you know is right for your students while safeguarding them from bribery, trickery, and manipulation.
In fact, used in a certain way, you can turn those tickets, tokens, and stickers into an advantage that actually supports the development of intrinsic motivation.
The key is to offer them to your students without connecting them to any particular behavior.
Give to everyone.
If you’re required to hand out external rewards, then joyfully give them to everyone in your class at the same time.
Show your students that it’s okay to give gifts, as well as smiles and acts of kindness, just because you care and just because it feels good—or for no reason at all.
It sends the message that the true reward resides with the giver.
Give for fun.
Passing out tokens (for use at a school store or prize box), colorfully designed pencils, or smiley hand stamps is fun.
It makes students smile and adds another layer of specialness that makes your classroom a place your students love coming to every day.
Just pass them out at odd times without explanation, even to the student sitting in time-out. It is, after all, a free gift with no strings attached.
Give as a lesson.
When you give just for the sake of it, it reinforces the lesson we all want our children to embrace that learning, making friends, and enjoying school is reward unto itself.
It is, in fact, the greatest reward you can offer.
Free grace has a remarkable way of softening hearts and reawakening intrinsic motivational engines. It’s also a model for what true giving looks like.
Your expression of unconditional generosity—whether smiles, fist bumps, a kind word, or dinosaur erasers—will deepen your influence and cause your students to take up your cue and give of themselves to others.
A Core Principle
Whether or not you’re at a school that requires you to hand out rewards, there is great value in ensuring that all of your giving is a free act of grace.
Simple and consistent kindness, pleasantness, and friendliness, without expectation of receiving anything in return, is a core principle here at SCM.
It builds easy rapport and likability, strengthens your classroom management plan, and provides the leverage you need to have the well-behaved class you want.
There is a lot to this topic, including how to handle monthly rewards and “caught being good” recess tickets. We’ll be sure to cover these and more in future articles.
So stay tuned.
Give to give.
The rewards are real, profound, and life-changing.
PS – If you’re a high school teacher in need of an effective classroom management plan, click here.
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