I've always been the teacher with candy in a tub, given out generously for positive reinforcement, random "have a piece" tossings, and a treat for everyone just because. I've often kept soft drinks in the fridge to give out for special occasions. I bake cookies and muffins, treat my classes to breakfast, or pizza parties. To me, all that is just one more way to show students I care.
Tuesday, I spent the day in PBIS training learning about the new program we are going to implement at the middle school and high school level. Parts of it appeal to me very much. I like the idea of catching kids doing good and giving them positive reinforcement for it. I need the reminder of saying 5 positives for every negative interaction. I even like the idea of large scale rewards when the group is getting on the ball with doing the right thing.
On the other hand, I am concerned we are creating citizens who will expect to be rewarded simply for doing the right thing. It seems to me, this type of system should be a starting point in changing behaviors, one that naturally weans itself down to where students have gotten the hang of what is expected and are now routinely practicing those habits just because, without the constant need for a token of appreciation.
I fear we are setting ourselves up to teach kids the always want to up the ante with rewards. I recently took the role of 'check-in/check-out' person for a 6th grader who is struggling to be successful. Nice kid, funny kid, likable kid. He just needs a little boost to keep himself on track. Great... the idea is he takes his check-in/check-out sheet to all his classes each day, and if he earns the preset requisite points, I give him a small prize, a candy. I also told him for 5 days of good reports, I would give him a pop. So, what does he do? He asks for a pop each day instead, and McDonald's for lunch when he has a 5 day run.
The other young man I know that is on a similar program with another teacher, counts his points each hour, figuring out when he can start to "be bad" and still get his points.
I just want to make sure our ideas for positive reinforcement are matching our ultimate goal of teaching students to become responsible citizens because that is what they ought to be doing, not because of the piece of candy or the pop or the special prize.