Tag Archives: behaviour management

Why I say No to rewards

22 Jan

Recently I shared on my facebook page a post from Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension titled “Put Your Name on the Board – A Tale of Why I Gave Up Classroom Discipline Systems” and it got me thinking… At the end of last year, colleague offered me some bits and bobs to add to my ‘surprise box’ and was baffled when I responded with ‘no thanks, I don’t do rewards’.I'm not telling you it's going to be easyDuring courses at university it became evident that classroom behaviour management relies on students having a firm understanding of expectations and the consequences if expectations are not met.  Discussion around this topic often focused on preventative measures of behaviour management in the form of rewards systems; whole class and individual.  The idea behind these systems is to externally motivate students to work towards meeting expectations in order to gain something positive for themselves.  On professional experience placements I was confronted by students who did not respond to the sticker charts, table points or treat boxes according to the text book examples I had studied.  I saw children demonstrating whole body listening when I was holding a whiteboard marker (just in case table points where on offer) and then bickering and teasing when my back was turned.  I heard the words “I’m not picking that up, it’s not mine” until pack up time when the first group to clear up received bonus points.  I felt the disappointment of students who didn’t care about producing their best quality work and when provided with opportunities to improve, they simple shrugged and sighed ‘I never get any table points anyway’.  I was disheartened to say the least.

I became more and more unsettled with the idea of using such systems in my classroom.  I believe that teaching is preparing students to become active, effective, positive members of society; equipped with the skills to think laterally and creatively, work collaboratively and persist in problem solving when things get tough.  I thought, if these are the traits that I hope to see in these future adults, what can I do to nurture them in their childhood? I can believe in their ability to do their best, support them in making mistakes and developing resilience and nurture their desire to be a part of a caring, safe community.

It's ok to not know but it's not ok to not try

I want my students to realise that they have control of the learning environment that they participate in each and every day.  I want them to truly believe that the expectations we have agreed on together are there to protect them and help them be successful.  I want my class to feel empowered to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of their classmates.  I want them to be intrinsically motivated to do their best, be their best and push others to do the same.  How can I say that this is what I believe and expect of my students, and still provide superficial rewards ‘just in case’ my high expectations are not enough?  I can’t.  So, from the beginning of my first year of teaching I decided that I do not do rewards.

This is not to say that students in my class are never rewarded.  Not at all.  Rather, the kinds of rewards they experience are those they work to achieve for themselves.  Not every child is intrinsically motivated, nor does every child come from a background that values or models that kind of drive but I don’t believe that means I should lower my expectations of them.  How much more important it is for those children to have the opportunity to learn these skills!

These are some of the ways that I set my students up to experience success and create their own positive learning environment, sans stickers, points and prizes.

  • Providing consistent, explicit, high expectations for ALL students in regards to their behaviour and work ethic.
  • Modelling ways of supporting others to successfully meet expectations (We talk a lot about strengths and areas for development and how we can constructively share our observations of these with our peers).
  • Giving LOTS of positive reinforcement and public praise, ensuring feedback and is specific and outlines what it was that allowed the student to be successful (“I love how you persisted with that activity and broke it down into smaller parts when you found it difficult”).
  • Talking about the things that they value about our classroom and the impact they personally have on those elements (“If we do not put things back where they belong things get lost and we no longer have access to equipment that we love to use”).
  • Using quality children’s literature to highlight examples of the expectations that we are looking for in our classroom.
  • Regularly referring to our school’s Learning Assets (collaboration, self-management, communication, deep thinking, researching) as they are demonstrated by students.
  • Creating opportunities for whole class problem solving activities when consequences need to be reflected on and a more positive alternative to the behaviour identified for all students.

These are just some of the ways that I create a positive, student centred classroom environment in which all students have the opportunity to do the right thing, not because they will be rewarded but because they value the effects of working as a community and appreciate the excitement of achieving through persistence and hard work.

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