Sunday, January 22, 2006

Sometimes, you do something right...

My school has a system of behavior points or dollars. Students start out with 30 at the beginning of the week. They lose dollars for various behaviors and can gain dollars for being exceptionally good. Not turning in homework is -15, to stress the importance of completing work. Calling out in class might be -2. Being one of the first students to start working upon entering class might earn you a dollar or two. Every few weeks, we have some kind of incentive for students who have earned a minimum number of dollars. They have to get their "paycheck" signed by a parent each week and return it, which makes this both a behavior mod system and a means to communicate with parents on a regular basis. It doesn't work for every kid, but it does keep many on the straight and narrow.

Most of our sixth graders have maintained high averages on their paychecks. One boy, however, over the first three months of the year, had an average of fewer than 10 dollars. He wasn't misbehaving, he was simply not completing assignments. He seemed to space out quite regularly and was very disorganized. He was near the top of the kids we're worried about list.

After Thanksgiving, something changed. I can't say what it was, exactly, and I'm not taking credit. I'd like to think that being in a supportive, consistent environment and getting some personal attention had something to do with it. Maybe he was just having a really extreme adjustment problem to being at a new school with high standards and more than one teacher. His homeroom teacher had talked to him several times, trying to get to the root of the problem. We'd been in touch with his family. We'd talked to the social worker about him. In any case, in the past 7 weeks, he has received no paycheck with fewer than 25 dollars! He is bursting with pride in himself. The first week that he improved, he asked me to write a note home because his mom wasn't going to believe him; I wrote the note on special stationery. He isn't a stellar student yet - completing an assignment doesn't ensure that it's done well - but he is laying a foundation of good work habits that will allow us to help him make academic progress. He initiates conversations with teachers. He contributes ideas to class discussions. It's like he's alive in a whole new way.

Priceless.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Dick Dalton said...

Consistency means a lot, but whatever it was, it really helped him make the turn. And that's a neat thing for any teacher to see. Kudos to your school for having a nice system of reinforcement!

dick

9:32 PM  

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