Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gripe-fest 2009

What is with the ridiculous rewards programs some teachers use in schools? Geez! Kort had a substitute teacher today, and at the start of class she gave every kid 2 marbles, and every time they didn't listen, or didn't follow instructions, or got out of their chair, or what have you, she took a marble away. If you still had both of your marbles at the end of a certain period of time, you got some skittles. If you had one of your marbles, you got less skittles, if you had NO marbles, yep, you guessed it, you sit and watch your friends eat candy while you feel like a "bad kid" and "failure." I was the mom helper today, and when I got there, Kort came up to me, explained the marble incentive, and said in a choked up, shameful voice,

"But I already lost both of mine."

"I told him that it was okay and not to worry about it and that he should just focus on doing his work and I would take him to the store to get any treat he wanted after school. (Take that, manipulative substitute teacher. Take that.)

Now, just so we're all up to speed, I have read NUMEROUS studies about the counter-productivity of incentive programs such as these. It doesn't get kids to do better, it tears down the self esteem of the kids who have higher energy levels. Sure, kids (Kortland especially) need to learn to sit still and stay on task, but singling them out and humiliating them with ridiculous treat programs is not the answer.

I know, I know, teachers have A LOT on their plates, and punishment/rewards systems appear to work on the surface, but they are also extremely damaging in the long run.

So, I was out in the hallway, helping a student with his sight words when Kort comes running out of the classroom - completely hysterical. Tears streaming down his cheeks. Can't breathe. Yep. Treat time. Time to sit at a table full of well-behaved girls and feel like a jack-ass who can't keep his feet still and his mouth shut. Time for everyone to chew up their individual piles of magical, rainbow-y goodness and stare at the loser kids who didn't stay in their seat or get their work done fast enough. Let's all take a moment to ensure that Laura has to DRAG her kid to school every day for the rest of his life, shall we?

The funny thing is, these programs punish MOST kids in the end. Take their homework sticker books for example. Each child has a sticker book, and when they bring their homework in on time, the teacher gives them a sticker to go in their sticker book. The child that has the most stickers at the end of the year gets a giant candy bar. Seems harmless enough, right? Well, let me reiterate something for you.
1 winner.
21 losers.
No matter how hard they worked ALL YEAR to turn in TONS of homework...21 of them get to watch ONE child walk to the front of the classroom, receive a gigantic candy bar, and be the only one recognized for their hard work that year.
1 winner.
21 losers.

To top it all off, the teacher gives out stickers (to go in that same sticker book) for good behavior. I'll give you one guess as to what the guy to girl ratio of sticker rewards is. Yep. About 0-20. In all of my weeks of service as a mom helper, I have seen MANY stickers awarded to girls, and not a single one awarded to any boy in the class. (Now, some boys may have received stickers on days when I was not present, but the fact that I've seen roughly 20 stickers awarded, and all of those were to girls, should tell you something.) Nice. So, Kortland could have a flawless homework record, but still won't be recognized, because the girls who get "good behavior" stickers on an almost daily basis will have him beat...by a lot - no doubt.

And what about the ESL students in Kortland's class whose parents don't understand a lick of English? Should they be punished too?

What about the kids who have scattered, dead-beat parents? They don't get their homework turned in on time (if ever). How about we add a few more things for them to feel bad about? (you know, besides a mom that is too busy to care about them or a dad that's never there.)
Good idea.

Like I said, teachers are just doing the best they can with what they have, but I am so tired of trying to teach my child to be responsible and exceptional SIMPLY for the sake of being responsible and exceptional only to send him to school where he is taught to be responsible and exceptional SIMPLY for the sake of earning a bloody, worthless candy bar!

I want my son to be kind, and good, and thoughtful because it's the right thing to do, not because he's going to get something for it.

Is that so crazy?

Oh, and please don't take this as the insane rantings of "the oblivious, over-protective mom who can't see that her kid is a turd that drives everyone crazy" - I know that Kort doesn't sit still! I know that he doesn't like school or writing or coloring or any of it and that it is like pulling teeth to get him to sit down and fill out a worksheet - I know this. I go through it with him every night when it's time to do homework. But he isn't a disrespectful kid. He doesn't mouth off to his teacher or say hurtful things to his classmates, so why is he being put in situations that make him feel bad or worthless? It's so frustrating!

and another thing

Why are people still breeding Pit Bulls?
Nobody wants them.
There are thousands of them listed for free on craigslist
and thousands of them put down in Animal Shelters every year
and I cannot for the life of me comprehend WHY anyone is still breeding them!

What? Because they are being bred by white-trash idiots who are too cheap/ghetto to spay or neuter their animals, you say? Makes sense I guess.

Now, let me just say that I know that Pit Bulls are actually amazing dogs (generally) that have gotten a really bad rap. When raised in a loving home environment and given the proper training, they are loving, wonderful pets. The problem is, most people don't know that! And even when they are told that, they are still scared because the breed is considered to be unstable. Good dog, good dog, good dog...and SNAP!- kill a child out of nowhere! Where do I sign up? It just makes me really sad because I love animals and I have photographed A LOT of really sweet, well-behaved pit bulls for the animal shelter and I know what cute great animals they are. I hate to see all of these innocent lives brought into the world only to suffer, go from home to home, and eventually be put to sleep by a stranger in a cold, white cinder block room somewhere. What a great life. Kyle just found a listing for someone wanting to find a home for an Akita/Pit Bull mix and that DID IT! Who in the (fill in expletive of choice here) thought that that little mix was a responsible choice?

What? Some white trash loser who clearly has masculinity issues and therefore needed to breed a dangerous, killing-machine type dog to overcompensate for his, um, shortcomings, you say? Again, I can't argue with your flawless logic, blogfriend of mine. That logic sounds down right air tight to me. I'm so glad we see it the same way.

Again, the dog in question might very well be sweet as pie, but the odds are stacked against it when it comes to finding a loving home. I like Kortland's face just a little too much to risk having it eaten off by a dog that should never have been created. Again, not the dog's fault. Totally the owner's fault. I love Pit Bulls. Love them. I'd like for them to stop being created, abandoned, neglected, abused, abandoned again and then put to sleep. Thanks.

If you have ever purposely (or accidentally for that matter) bred an Akita with a Pit Bull, I would highly recommend that you steer clear of me, as I will probably be inclined to throw you down and step on your face. That's all.

Sorry about the abrasiveness of this post! I'm actually in a great mood today, believe it or not (though I wouldn't be surprised if some of you opted for not).
I am happy.
Hormones are in check.
My child is cute as ever.
The dogs are contentedly chewing bones at my feet.
I ate a slice of cherry cheesecake only moments ago...
the list goes on and on.

But, if you are still feeling a bit bummed out post "Gripe-fest 2009" follow this simple exercise:
close your eyes
imagine you are on a tropical beach
the sun is shining warm and red through your eyelids
your skin is tingly and warm
waves are gently crashing on the shore
you are relaxed, and deeply happy
then, your good friend Lola comes out of nowhere and gives you a big hug.
"You look fabulous, how are you today?" she asks,
handing you an ice cold, fresh-squeezed lemonade.
"I'm doing great." You say, "How are you?"
"Oh, I am great as well." Lola says, "and can I just say how much I love incentive-driven school programs and irresponsible Pit Bull breeders?"
You say "I know, right?"
Then we live happily ever after on the beach somewhere.
The end.

That better?
Have a great day!
*If you are a responsible Pit Bull owner who responsibly breeds Pit Bulls and ensures that they are given to good, loving, responsible homes, you are NOT who or what I am referring to in this post. I have a wonderful friend (Monica) who has 2 Pit Bulls and she is an AMAZING dog owner. If all dog owners were like her, these problems wouldn't exist. So, don't feel attacked, Pit Bull lovers! I love them too. I just wish people would stop creating them when they have no intention of caring for or defending them.


Ashley Koz said...

Thats good to know about the marble treat thing being a bad idea. I'm just starting to try to figure out all best forms of disiplin/punishment. I totally watch that toddlers in tiaras. It's highly entertaining, the parents kill me. Some are fine/ some you want to reach your arms through the tv and strangle them

Anonymous said...

As an extremely energetic child myself during my elementry years I can attest to how damaging these reward/punishment incentives are. I was a really good kid and LOVED TO CHAT but that was constantly punished and I was constantly made to feel bad.
And as the story goes....
After years of that, Lisa finds herself in her Jr. High and High School and guess what? She goes from a happy productive chatter box to a very sad, introvert who never even talks at all. She won't answer question in class or even participate in discussions.
Thank you public education!
(Kort I got your back dude)

Aubry Macbean said...

I feel so bad for Kort. I can't believe the sub thought that was a good idea. It makes me wonder how kids in our primary do because as I have observed while trying to teach them music, MANY can not sit still, SEVERAL cannot stop talking. At first I was constantly trying to come up with new things to keep them still and listening (by the way our stake has said no rewarding one without rewarding all) I finally gave up trying to get all of them to listen someone will always be talking. I just try to make sure that those who listen might actually learn the songs.
You should always be careful when mixing kids and dogs. Some people down the street had a very old rotwieler/something mix. The guy had had him for thirteen years. A very nice dog. Well they had a baby and everything seemed to be fine the dog was never aggressive. Then one day when the girl was about 18 months the Dad in the other room hears the dog bark and the girl scream. Luckily he was able to get the dog off. She wound up with over 200 stitches. Haven't heard what else happened but you should never leave babies or toddlers unsupervised around any type of dog. Big or small. Loving or aggressive. You just never know when the dog will have enough and retaliate the only way they know how.

Heather said...

Here's the thing with substitutes- you don't need a degree, an education, or any experience. NONE! You basically need a pulse to be a substitute teacher. How do I know this? I am a certified teacher and I started as a substitute AFTER completing my education in the middle of a school year- I was shocked at the requirements- there aren't any. You sign up (you do have a background check, however- they do have one thing going right there) and you sub! Honestly, it's scary- we never know who will be in our children's classrooms on the days their teachers call for a sub. Hopefully our trained teachers know better than to pull off the Skittles scheme- honestly, it wouldn't work day in and day out. I'm sorry that happened to Kort- I hope he's feeling better tomorrow!

Ashley Koz said...

Also I agree that the Pitbull breeding should stop because of the fact they do have a bad rap and SOOOOOOOOO many end up in shelters and are put down. In fact if it were up to me NO one would be allowed to breed ANY dogs until our current shelter over population problem is under control, that will be the day!

Katie--the amazing one, not your other friend named Katie. She's amazing, too, but not the same Katie as me-- said...

You would've lost a marble for changing topics mid-post.

Speaking of...
Do you know anyone who needs a case of Skittles and marbles? I guess I'll have to put more thought into my discipline/incentive plan for next year.

In all seriousness, stupid marble and Skittles plans undermine my attempts to teach intrinsic motivation. External rewards are beneficial to a certain degree, but you are correct in stating that they are not enduring. External rewards must always be around (although they need not be used frequently or consistently to accomplish the goal. Infrequent and unpredictable external rewards tend to be more successful, that is of the external nature.)

The dumbest thing that the Substitute did was reward multiple Skittles. Every talented school teacher knows that rewarding a student with only one Skittle is more powerful than giving him a handful. You wouldn't believe the kind of things one can get a kid to do for one measly Skittle. Awarding only one is also much less expensive.

The Moody's said...

Poor Kort...I sit and watch Kenadie's class of 4 and 5 year olds and it is REALLY hard to be exactly perfect which it sounds like the substitute expected. Moody and I don't believe in rewarding with candy. We like taking Kenadie to do fun things instead. We learned the hard way with potty training!

Janyece said...

I guess I'm guilty. I totally give my kids treats for being good. They have a helping hand chart and an obedience chart and they help each other out to get the rewards. In schools though? Yeah, it's definitely not helpful to self-esteem. I'm sorry! I wish that everyone just cared about each child individually and didn't group them in categories of good and trouble. Xander is the big "Trouble-maker/distraction" in primary/sharing time to my chagrin, but instead of treating him like he's trouble, his teacher spends more time helping him. If it only always worked like that.

Jeff and Jessie said...

Hey girlie!! This is Jessica-from Ferron-Chantel's big sis. I stumbled on your blog from the Love Project. Anyway, I have 3 boys and I am totally digging where you are with the rewards thing. Schools completely destroy any sense of boyhood that is held within each boy-they are centered around little girls that can sit still and remember there is a reward for it! I feel your pain!
Did you hear the story on the news about a guy who shot two pit bulls that were about to attack a mother and her kids??? That was Russell saving they day! I was so proud! I hate irresponsible pet owners-especially the ones who let their dogs poop on my lawn!!
It has been fun to check your blog. Mine is private but if you want an invite, let me know!

Merrilee said...

Next time you go to mother help go prepared (just in case)so at the end of your time you can hand out mini candy bars to everyone because they are such good and special kids! That would be priceless to watch! Somethings-time never changes like, pulling cards(what if your kid was really trying to be nice and help someone who doesn't understand, letting kids pick teams (who wants to be the kid no one wants on their team,
making an example by making you put your gum on your nose, making you stand in the corner, etc..it is very aggravating to think that we can't evolve past this. I know it is hard as a parent to take this but being a grandma dealing with these issues are even worse! I hope the system changes soon. love reading your blogs when I get the chance-your refreshing and entertaining.

Nikki said...

You bring up a very good point. I kind of want to volunteer in Trae's class so I can see how his teacher disciplines and rewards her students. I hope you took Kort and got him lots of skittles after school! Bless his little heart :)

Uncle Drew said...


Go to school and become a teacher. I've gotten to where i am today because of Brenda Cropper my 1st grade teacher. she NEVER would single out children in front of the class, every day we would spell "F-R-I-E-N-D-S" and she highlighted a kid every week and told something neat about them. She once told me that I would make the best doctor, surgeon or lawyer in the world and that i would be rich and famous! Is it true? probably not, but i left first grade on top of the world.

So why not be a teacher? It's something we could always use, and we all know that there are a lot of idiots out there doing it.

Kortland's bored, that's all. He's really smart and needs to be challenged. coloring and worksheets aren't really the answer, but neither is homeschooling your kid who turns out to be a socially backward misfit.

Well Uncle Drew will get him any kind of candy he wants. Next time he gets two marbles tell him to tell his teacher that they are a choking hazard and that she had better have some damn good homeowners insurance. Then have him return the marbles and say "my attorney has advised me not to take these" and sit down.

give my buddy a squeeze and tell him that i love him. He's such a good kid. Love ya sis!!


Katie--the amazing one, not your other friend named Katie. She's amazing, too, but not the same Katie as me-- said...

I'm with Drew. Be a teacher.