Reward Free Year
11 years ago when I first started teaching Kindergarten one of the first things I bought for my class was a cute little wooden box to use as a treasure chest. During my student teaching I was convinced that dollar store goodies and stickers galore were the way to properly “manage” the behavior in my class. Slowly, I started to question this concept as I began to realize that the children that needed the most support did not conform to the standard management system. I always found myself developing plans that best matched their needs in addition to the standard behavior plan.
At the same time I really started to question the purpose of these rewards I began seeing many of people I follow on twitter speak out against rewards. Thanks especially to @ChrisWejr and his great blog for really pushing my thinking on this topic. The main concern I had was most of the conversation on the removal of rewards focused on high school aged kids. I kept asking myself if this could work in Kindergarten?
I struggled a lot with the concept because so many kids respond to the treasures, stickers and other various rewards I had used in the past. What finally convinced me to remove all rewards from my class was the potential harm they can have on those that need the most help. I feel strongly that rewards tend to only support and encourage those kids that really don’t need the support. The kids that respond best to rewards are not the ones we are really trying to reach. In fact there is a good case to be made that the kids that need the most support are being hurt by these rewards. The relationship that is crucial to teaching is easily harmed by rewards.
This past year I had an empty treasure chest in my room. I showed it to my class the first week of school and explained that I don’t give out “treasure”. I told my kids that when I was proud of them they would know it and when they made mistakes we would work together to fix it. I didn’t have a behavior or management system. I just expected my class to be great citizens and when they fell short we worked together to fix it. I focused more on developing relationships with each child and less on how/when to give out stickers.
My first year without rewards was a big success and the treasure chest is officially retired.
*update- Turns out I do have treasure in my room, read about it HERE