Token Economies

20130923-154208.jpg

In college, I remember hearing from my professors that token economies and other reward systems were a thing of the past – that we want to build intrinsic motivation into our lessons.

I remember hearing from my professors that token economies and other reward systems were a thing of the past

However, I was surprised to find out when I started that my school implements one of these. The teachers carry around dollars that can be spent on special treats in the cafeteria once a week. Different teachers hand them out for different reasons, but still, students are being rewarded for their actions.

The adult world they’ll soon be entering just doesn’t work like that.

I’m torn on this. Part of me deplores the idea that we are rewarding our students for things that they are suppose to do. The adult world they’ll soon be entering just doesn’t work like that. On the other hand, it does motivate them to work where they wouldn’t otherwise.

I’ve taken to only handing out the dollars when I see something extraordinary from a student or as part of a game. I use more of them in my inclusion class because I feel those students need the incentive more than others.

What’s your stance on token economies like this? What positive or negative experiences have you had with them?

They can win.

I’ve known since I met them that my students come from households characterized by chaos. I know that many of them are involved in gang activity in their neighborhoods. In fact, the idea that they can come to school in the midst of that and still concentrate amazes me.

Image

Anyway, I’ve noticed something. Because I work with a very difficult population, my classes are smaller. Sometimes I may even have one student in a class.

One on one, these students are like any other kids in any other school. They are usually pretty friendly and cooperative. However, as soon as they get out in that hallway, they are cussing and going back and forth with their peers. Today, I had to prevent two students from fighting each other who are usually pretty tame by themselves.

I want to hypothesize that this is all just a survival tactic. These kids know that if they don’t act tough and use their fists every once in a while, they’ll be eaten up by their chaotic world.

If we could convince students that they don’t need to act tough – that maybe being responsible and respectful in school will ultimately bring them the success they want – than a lot of our behavior problems would be solved. But that is easier said than done.

I propose that we as educators focus on developing meaningful relationships with our students.

I propose that we as educators focus on developing meaningful relationships with our students. The axiom, “rules without relationships builds rebellion” has never held truer than in urban education. If kids can see us setting an example and believing in them, they may just see that they can do it. They can win.

What do you think?

Where do these aggressive tendencies come from? What experiences have you had with this?

Why isn’t a diploma enough?

Image

As I sat in the teacher’s lounge today, I heard my colleagues complaining about the annoying certification process they had to go through. I agreed with them. Mine consisted of silly things like:

  • taking a basic skills test (which I had to do to get into college anyway)
  • completing an annoying pilot program (which was one of the worst-assembled things I’ve every experienced)
  • taking a teaching practices and content area exam
  • a nice, hefty fee

To me, this is just another tax that fuels a pretty messed up system.

Accreditation

It’s my understanding that universities with teacher education programs must undergo accreditation by the Department of Education. In short, they’re making sure that whatever the university is teaching will make good teachers. If that’s true, then why isn’t a diploma from one of these institutions enough to get a teaching job? The only thing I can think of is the background checks that go with it….but wait…don’t schools do that when you get hired anyway?

Why isn’t a diploma from one of these institutions enough to get a teaching job?

The Solution

Redundancies permeate education. It drives me crazy to think that, across the nation, there are countless people working in county-level offices of education while school district administrators are doing the same job. Imagine the money we could save without redundancies like licensure and certification. We could open new schools and fund better programs for our kids.  Let’s can licensure and certification programs and let teachers be the professionals that they’ve trained to be

Let’s can licensure and certification programs and let teachers be the professionals that they’ve trained to be

Why does lesson planning have to be so complicated?

Image

Don’t get me wrong. I love teaching. But when it comes to planning for teaching, I’m kind of a grouch. I tend to spend a good chunk of my weekends preparing for the weeks and months ahead. I definitely feel more prepared afterwards, but I wish I could find an easier way to do it.

When I was in high school, I had an awesome math teacher. Although I admittedly didn’t put much effort into her class, she was always nice and was very good at explaining things to us. One of the cool things she had us do (which I realize now was just a form of tiered instruction or scaffolding) was, after she had explained the concept to us, have us teach the concept to someone else in the class. She didn’t tell us to make sure we engaged all levels of Bloom’s or to differentiate based on our partner’s learning style. She didn’t ask us to explain how we would assess that our partner had mastered it. We knew what teaching looked like and most of us were able to do a pretty good job of explaining the concept to someone else.

All we did was watch something modeled and then model it ourselves. This is what good teachers do and its really very simple.

Again, don’t get me wrong. All that stuff we learn in college about procedures, DI, Gardner’s, Bloom’s, intervention, and assessment is really important. I’m just saying that it would make my job (and my life) a little less stressful if I could make my lesson plans a simple list of tasks with some justification thrown in.

After all, its hard to follow your lesson plans when this class gets behind or that class gets ahead. Half the time, I can’t use the awesome activating strategies or anticipatory sets I come up with because my class didn’t finish what they needed to the previous day. And when a principal comes to observe me, I always have to explain where we are in the lesson plan because invariably what we actually do in class doesn’t exactly match up.

I also understand that we need to be held accountable to what we’re doing in our classroom and that’s why our lesson plans have to be so particular. I just wish it could be a little more simple and straightforward.

What ways have you found to simplify your lesson planning? Do you have any survival tactics when it comes to this process?

First post!

Notebooks, Eraser and PencilThank you for reading the very first post on TeacherPains!

Let’s get one thing straight: This is not a site for complaining. TeacherPains is a place for solutions. If you’ve spent any time teaching in a public school, you’ve noticed how much of a mess America’s education system is in. Again, if you’ve ever worked in a public school, you’ve also noticed that most folks tend to complain about their problems and not do anything about it. TeacherPains is a place for the people who actually do the work of teaching (not politicians, bureaucrats, or administrators) to provide solutions to the issues holding our kids back. Lets make this a movement. Let’s move and act to make education something that helps our students really succeed.

As a new teacher in an urban school district, I can provide some unique insight into the muck that is the American education system. This site will serve as an anonymous outlet that will help me share my thoughts on teaching and education. It is also a place for others to express their ideas on what we can do to brighten our students’ futures.

A little bit about myself:

I am a first-year teacher somewhere in America.

I am a person with a degree and experience in education.

I am a professional.

I am a person who believes that education is about the students.

Please feel free to comment with ideas or questions! I’m excited about the future we can make together.