Betting on Students

Betting on attendance is one way of motivating our students, but betting on individual students also works well, depending on the student.  Basically what happens is this: one staff member (I’ll use myself as an example) decides that this is the week we’re going to “turn” Stacy*.  That means that I’ve decided to focus my attention on Stacy and get her to come to school daily (and on time), to pay attention in class and do all of her work (without getting kicked out), and begin to have a positive attitude about school.  So, sometime during the day on Friday, I tell Stacy about the bet.  This gives her the weekend to prepare herself, and to realize that I care enough about her to bet that she can do well.  Hopefully, she won’t want to let me down.  I also let the rest of the staff know about the bet.  They will spend the week loooking out for positive things that Stacy is doing and complimenting her on them.  They also agree to largely ignore what she’s doing wrong (uniform violations, talking in class, chewing gum, etc…) as along as it doesn’t endanger herself, other students or staff, or school property.

When she comes in on Monday (hopefully, on time), I remind her of the bet.  If she’s not on time I gently chastize her for being late and remind her that I’m counting on her this week.  If she does well in my class (does her work, stays relatively quiet, and doesn’t respond to me with an attitude), I give her a “shout out” in the afternoon meeting.  Uusally I say something like,”I want to recognize Stacy for not getting kicked out of any classes today.”  As the week goes on, I’m able to give better “shout outs” like, “I want to recognize Stacy for participating in class today.” All the other students clap (as they do when anyone is recognized) because they know that Stacy has been giving the staff a hard time.  This accomplishes two things.  Stacy is receiving positive reinforcement for the things she’s doing right rather than negative reinforcement for what she’s doing wrong.  This also shows other students that they are capable of changing their behavior and that they will be recognized for doing so.  We avoid giving negative reinforcement in front of the group (we usually pull a student aside and speak to them individually), but always give positive reinforcement in public.  On Friday, I buy her lunch as long as she has met some of the goals I set for her.  I continue the positive reinforcement until she doesn’t need it anymore and work with other students on improving their behavior.

*Names have been changed to protect the students


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I am not perfect. I do my best to practice what I preach, but I am human. My mantra is, "DO NO HARM". I may not always succeed, but I will always try. My goal is to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

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