Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Job of Being a Student

behaviorIn Help Wanted, An Effective Behavior Management System for High School Students

from CEC Blog, John talks about wanting a behavior management system for his class. He asks,

“My question now is how can the students earn these rewards? Should students earn reinforcers on a weekly basis, daily basis or monthly basis? Should I make “prices” for the reinforcers that the students have to earn points towards (token economy system)? My only stipulation for a behavior system is no stickers. Any system that requires stickers will be rejected. My classmates during my undergraduate years can attest to the fact that I have a thing against stickers in my classroom. So stickers aside, I’m open to any and all suggestions.”

In my high school self contained occupational diploma class, I used a token economy system. I started the year off explaining that my class was more than a class. It was a job. They were given a document explaining their job duties and the salary that they would receive for each class. Along with the salary, there would be fines and bonuses. Throughout the year, they would be able to spend their “money” and certain goods and privileges which were also spelled out for them.

Students didn’t actually get any real money or even fake money. I used an excel spreadsheet that became a weekly accounting sheet for each student.When students arrived in my class, they were given a folder with their name on it. Inside the folder were any assignments, notes, for them along with this accounting sheet. At the end of class (or classes), they would turn in this folder to me. Each day I tallied up accumulated earnings for the day along with any fines, or bonuses. Usually fines and bonuses were recorded immediately rather than at the end of the day. When a student spent money, this was also recorded on the sheet. The fines were recorded right on the sheet so it was a good way to record behavior problems. At the end of the week, the sheet was collected and filed and a new sheet was given the next week. I also explained my system to the administration because sometimes my students would talk about their “money” outside of class and I didn’t want anyone to misunderstand what we were doing.

Some students did not buy in to this program at first but once they saw classmates buying things or getting rewards, they tended to join in. This usually took no more than two weeks. Sometimes I would throw out bonuses if the whole class did (whatever). At the end of each nine weeks, I would do something special if all of the students had a certain amount of money still in their account. After checking with the administration, if all of the students had $400 in their account, I would buy the class a pizza or cake or something mutually agreed upon. Near the end of the nine weeks, some students would pressure others to do their homework, behave, or do whatever to earn as much salary as possible.

The funny part was that at times, many students didn’t want to spend their money. They were so proud of accumulating tons of money (even though they knew it wasn’t real!). They would gloat about their earnings! In fact, they were so proud of it, that at times we shared the accounting sheets at parent conferences.

The negative aspect to this is that at first, it takes a lot of teacher time and organization. It takes time to write their names on each sheet and put them in folders for the first day of the week. It takes time to tally each sheet at the end of the day. And it takes time to file these at the end of the week. I usually wrote names on all of the sheets for the one week and then made 9 copies of each for the following weeks. That helps at the beginning of the week.

The positive aspect of this is that it really works. I used this kind of system for over 20 years and my students responded well to it. The key is being consistent. Students need to know that I will follow through and keep the record going. When they see that I won’t let the system fall to the wayside and let them have privileges even thought they didn’t have enough money, they will work harder.

Using this system, I rarely had behavior problems in my class. I have written less than 30 referrals for students in my own class in over 30 years of teaching.

If you are interested in seeing my list of job duties or my accounting sheet, please email me at successfulteaching at gmail dot com.

Do you use some kind of successful behavior management system? Please share the details!

Image: 'Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)'
Found on flickrcc.net


Nancy McCarroll said...

Came to you through Ravelry and your gift of a pattern, just in case you wonder how I found you. Thank you again for the pattern.

Your post was fun to read and so proud that you motivated your students. My husband taught in the State system for incarcerated youth. He rewarded with candy, throwing a piece to a boy who answered the question correctly, etc. A pop (can of coke, etc) was also a big deal for those guys because they never got that while "inside"...bribes do work and effectively!

Keep up your good work and I will follow your blog. I have a follower site on my blog, and I will go back to see if you also do. If not, I will do a cut and paste on your url.


Pat Hensley said...

@Nancy Glad you found my blog! I hope you found the subscribe button on the left. I also added your blog to my Google Reader.