My first classroom experience was in special education. We had 13 students. I was a paraprofessional–a teachers’ aide. This was my job while I was in grad school, earning my Masters in Education and my teaching certification. My first day, I knew nothing of what to expect.
My head teacher placed charts on every child’s desk. Each child had his own goal. Some were academic. Others were behavioral. When the children succeeded in their goals, they received a stamp. A part of my job was “stamper.” I very quickly realized that the children knew exactly what they would need to do in order to get a stamp. And as soon as they realized they behaved poorly or didn’t fulfill a goal, they would glance over at me, or at the chart on their desk. The sad faces broke my heart, but, over time, I’d notice a change. The kids knew they behaviors that needed to change. They’d work to change it.
Those kids were 12 years old. They loved receiving stamps. Sometimes they didn’t need any reward beyond the stamps. The kids smiled with such pride when I stamped their squares each day. And when they earned enough to receive their prize? Oh! The cheers and thrills.
A few years later, I was pregnant. And despite all I learned from teaching special and regular education children and managing their behaviors, I proudly announced to my family “I will not ever bribe my children.”
A few years later, I nodded in agreement when Big’s pre-K teacher said “some people would call our rewards bribery. I call it payment for a job well done. Just like you get paid at work and receive bonuses and raises when you work well, your children should receive them as well.”
It was like a light bulb going off, all those years later. Sure, at that point I’d bribed him plenty. But I’d never thought of it as paying him for doing a good job.
The kids really do respond to these rewards. My expectations are as clear now as they were that first year in teaching. At night, the boys and I conference and I ask them whether they deserve a marble, they always know the answer and can usually express and example as to why they are or are not fulfilling each goal.
Things have changed so much since I was actively in the classroom as a teacher. I imagine at Parent-Teacher Conferences next week, I’d be recommending this FREE app, Marble Jar, to a lot of the students’ parents… and probably have it set up in the classroom for a class goal or two.
© 2011, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.