Rewarding Students

The band that performed for our Reward Day

The band that performed for our Reward Day

Our middle school has started a series of Reward Days – one per trimester.  Students are eligible to participate in the Reward Day by having no office referrals and a C or better in all of their classes.

We’ve held two so far.  The first one involved teachers coming up with activities to offer the Reward students to participate in.  Students signed up for an activity and spent the last hour on a Friday involved in some sort of fun.  The other students were in a detention room with work to do.

The second was a big hit: our band director has a rock band that performed for the students.  With lights, sound, and fog, the students were treated to a rock concert in their middle school gym.  We also got some dollar store beach balls for the kids to throw around.

It’s been interesting watching the reactions of students to our Reward Days.  Some are devastated if they aren’t eligible.  Others seem to not care.  Some are excited that they are eligible, others seem to take it as their due.

One student, who has had failing grades all year, pulled his grades up to Cs recently.  This meant he was eligible for the rock concert.  On the way down the hall to return to class after the concert, he commented that “this was really fun!”  My hope is that he remembers that fun and continues to turn in his work.

It’s a lot of work to put the Reward Days together, and some have questioned whether we should continue, since some students aren’t bothered by losing the privilege.  Others have pointed out that the students who are doing the right thing rarely get rewarded for that.  Especially since they only have to have Cs, this involves students who don’t make the honor roll.  These students, who try, but aren’t able to pull really good grades get a reward for their effort.

Our biggest problem now is what to do for our next Reward Day.  It’s going to be tough to top a rock concert!

Do you reward your students?  How?  Which ones?

Inspiring your Students

Two things happened recently that got me thinking:

First, my daughter, who is finishing her sophomore year in college mentioned that things she learned in her high school statistics class really helped her in her political science class this semester.  I suggested she email her high school teacher to let him know and at first, and she said she didn’t think he’d remember her.  After pointing out that emails like this one are what keep teachers going through the hard days, she agreed to email him.

Second, I ran a couple of races Friday night with some of my students.  We’ve been training for them in our after school program and Friday night was the night.  They were SO proud!  After the race, one of the parents mentioned that my telling the class about my own running had inspired her daughter to try.

 All of this got me thinking about the effect we have on students.  Often, we have no idea that we’ve made a difference.  We spend hour upon hour struggling to teach our students, to give them the skills, tools and knowledge they need to be successful, but there’s no neon sign blinking over their heads to let us know if it’s working.

Running that race Friday night made a difference.  As I ran along with one student, we chatted about the possibility of joining the cross country team.  When I said we had run as far as the cross country runners do in their races, he was surprised.  He said he thought they run 6 miles at a time.  The big concern with joining the team seemed to be speed.  Neither student was terribly fast.  Which worked out well, since I’m not either!  Both were shocked when I told them that I haven’t ever won a race.  I explained that I don’t run the races to win, but just to have fun (and to get the commemorative shirt, along with the yummy food at the end!) After telling them that, they were open to the idea of joining the team.

My plan for next year is to work harder  to help my students understand the importance of being active.  Our school is part of the Fuel Up to Play 60 program and I hope we can continue to inspire our students to exercise.  I truly believe they will learn better if they are physically fit. As a teacher, it’s clear that I can be an inspiration to them by sharing my own experiences.  Maybe knowing that I keep entering races, knowing that I won’t win will convince one of my students to take a chance themselves.