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Rewarding a lack of effort 
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
Post Rewarding a lack of effort
OK. I've been having this discussion a bit and I wonder what others think. It actually comes from my experiences with other teachers at a junior high school I work at and what I've been seeing with my son at his school.

It seems that recently teachers reward every student for everything and anything. Teachers go out of their way to find something to reward every student for. Is that always positive? (a previous thread on teacher praise: how NOT to praise)

I'm a strong believer in fostering positive attitudes, rewarding effort, and finding the potential in our students but I think some/we are now doing it at the expense of disappointment. I feel that disappointment is important. If we are always protecting our students from it, then how will they ever learn from it, be motivated by it, and also learn to deal with it.

This kind of goes back to an earlier thread about competitiveness and cooperation we discussed before, Competitiveness in class.

What do you think? Should everyone be rewarded for their effort to the point that we are actually rewarding people for a lack of effort or rewarding them without any effort? Is there another side to this coin?

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Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:00 am
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Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:33 am
Posts: 289
Location: Niigata
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I think teaching is just like any other movie, novel, speech, etc....you need to hook your audience. Once they are hooked, it's easier to mold them.

I kinda liken teaching experiences to what to my high school crush, Michell Phiefer, said in Dangerous Minds: "Learning is the reward all in itself."

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Wed Oct 10, 2007 2:13 pm
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Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2007 5:52 am
Posts: 33
Location: spain
Post rewards
It's okey to reward SOMETIMES, in just a few cases... but... it's okey students get used to rewards for doing something they are supposed to do? For me, it's important students get frustrated in some occasions and we must teach them the sense of responsibility and effort. Most of us were taught without rewards nor diplomas or whatever and we also have learnt the language, in a different way though, but we learnt it.


Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:10 pm
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Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:57 pm
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I could literally write a book about this topic but would have trouble finding a title because I believe both are necessary.
Is competition and disappointment a vital part of education? Absolutely without question! Helping students deal with both are an important part of education and best done in a setting that is less threatening than the real world.
To give you an excellent example: One principal at one of my schools told the teachers the goal of this year's sports day was to make every 6th grade student cry. Sounds like a horrendous person who shouldn't teach, but you wouldn't think so after watching the event. Sure enough there weren't a lot of dry eyes in the 6th grade class nor the 5th grade class after they were visited by the 6th graders who then 'passed the torch' on to them.
In Japan schools are divided into teams with careful consideration of ability to make evenly matched teams. Each team gets points for individual placements as well as team events like the relay, tug of war, and of course 'cheering'.
This year the winning team was decided by only 4 points and it all came down to the last relay event. I have never seen such determination on each person who held the baton. The 6th grade class rarely express how they feel but the emotions were easy to read that day. Half the school were 'winners' and half the class were 'losers'. What makes this a good lesson is that the teachers didn't use the word 'loser' but praised their efforts and pointed out that their tears of disappointment only goes to show how HARD they worked and for that they should be proud!
When there are two students who are evenly matched, I tell them that their rivalry makes each other stronger. If you lose, you need to think of what you can do next time to be stronger or better. Like Batman learns from his father, 'Why do you fall? So you can learn to stand up again.'
Much more than the event itself is how the teacher helps the students deal with disappointment. This is not easily learned and a failure in the 'real world' can truly be devastating. Thus, my arguments for encouraging 'disappointment' and 'failure' in school.

OK, my opinions on the other half will come later.


Wed Oct 10, 2007 5:27 pm
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Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:57 pm
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OK here are a few times I think rewards really work.
I think they work when the "competition" is not evenly matched or when the task at hand is overwhelming or even scary. What happens when someone works 10 times harder with only 1/10th of the results? What prevents them from giving up? There are a few truly motivated people who have a goal way in the distance and are disciplined enough to work for that goal. The majority of the students have to learn that discipline and have to understand how effort can end in success.

Breaking up that goal into manageable chunks and rewarding the students with stickers, stamps, and even fun activities help students make those small steps. Sometimes this means setting different standards or even individual goals. Sometimes this means rewarding a student for something you would expect others to do naturally.

When my children started pre-school, they didn't want to go. They hadn't made friends and they wanted to stay home. I told them they could put a sticker on the calender for every day they went. When they dreaded the school meals, I went over the menu each day and we decided how many bites they would eat of a certain dish. They got stickers for this too. After awhile, they didn't need the stickers. Would they have gone to pre-school and eaten the meals without the stickers? I'm sure they would have, but it was so much easier on our household and with far less tears and arguments.

Also school life for a slow student is not easy. Regardless of the types of activites the teacher does in class, test scores rank students and these students know they are on the lower end. These students know that most of their classmates understand what they cannot. These students are scolded for not being organized, not completing their homework, not trying harder. After a rough day, being recognized for doing something right, however little, can really make a difference. I know after a bad day, it helps me to think of one or two things I did RIGHT and give myself a pat on the back. I can do this because I have self-respect. Many of these slower students have this respect whittled away little by little.

I guess what it all comes down to is SUCCESS. One of my favorite quotes is "Nothing motivates like success'. Whether that is done through competition or rewards, students have to be shown how in the end they were successful by completing a task, doing well, or becoming stronger. Also if all the student sees is "winning" or "getting the reward", they've missed out on the important part, and this is the process or effort they put in to get there.


Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:09 pm
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Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2006 3:35 pm
Posts: 119
Location: Yamaguchi, Japan
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Another experience to add to show the need to take care with rewards.
When my son was 9 he was cleaning his bag out at the end of the last day of school and a pile of bent and ripped certificates came out destined for the rubbish. I asked what they were for and he said they were nothing. He said they were issued because it was his turn to get a certificate. One certificate was for `putting in effort`!! They had no value to him and certainly were no motivation.
But I also remember how proud my daughter was when she got her first certificate from school at age 5, she showed everyone.
Kids are not stupid and quickly catch on to whether something has value or not, whether that is praise or rewards.


Fri Oct 12, 2007 11:59 am
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Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 4:55 am
Posts: 61
Location: Poland
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Praising and rewards make MIRACLES but they only work when you really need to put some effort into getting them. Praisng should be fair with students (some need more effort to achieve less than others) and not given on any occasion. You wouldn't constantly reward your child for going out with the dog, right? It's their duty and resposibility.
The example of Simon's son is brilliant. Couldn't be simpler and more adequate :)


Sun Oct 21, 2007 9:00 pm
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