Tricks and Treats to Long-Term Rewards

trick-or-treat-pumpkinBy Cecilia Ware — There are many different ways to curb rowdy or unruly behavior in the classroom; but, one practice that seems to actually produce results in the particular classroom I am observing is using long-term rewards to promote good behavior.

For example, my cooperating teacher pitched the idea of a Halloween party to her students, but required that as a class they receive twenty-five “compliments”, or points, for good behavior over a period of weeks building up to Halloween. If the class could gain twenty-five points, they would be allowed to dress up in costumes and have pizza and soda and candy in class. The catch: for any poor behavior, even if it was only one student acting out, the teacher could deduct points accordingly. This incentivized the class to work together to keep each other in check while not spoiling the possibility of a glorious Halloween costume party for everyone else.

I have previously written about the unruliness of the class I am observing, and am by now no stranger to some of the unsavory antics and behavior of some of the students. But, to my own disbelief, with the promise of costumes and candy, everyone in the class has somehow pulled it together to make the dream a reality. I must compliment the children myself because the past few days they have been, quite frankly, outstanding.

I have been in awe of the lull in the usual noise of the class, of the sea of hands raised in the air to answer questions instead of screaming out loud or not bothering to try at all, of the participation, of the amount of work being completed, and of the respectfulness shown toward not only the teacher, but to each other as well. Of course there are slip-ups here and there, and every now and then a point gets deducted, but I find that I simply must applaud their efforts and give them all the credit in the world.

This all gets me to wondering though, is a satisfying reward all it takes to pacify a rowdy class? Or will the bliss end once Halloween has passed and the party is over? Will my cooperating teacher be forced to continue coming up with more and more ways to bribe them and reward them? While today was a spectacular day for our sixth graders at WCLL, there is by no means any guarantee that this will stick after the party has passed. While my cooperating teacher and I rejoiced and made merry at our success today, we may not be rejoicing once there is no incentive.

My question is, how will we make it stick? I often wonder if the students themselves notice how much they achieve when they work together and behave appropriately, but only time will tell. As I don my own costume and take to the streets disguised as rock legend Bret Michaels this weekend, I’ll be wondering what to expect next week at WCLL upon the end of our Halloween party promise.

Happy Halloween!

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