School Reward Systems; For Better or Worse?

I have always had a reward system at every Mahomet school I have attended. The concept is simple, put forward good behavior, and you will be rewarded for it. For example, you can  get out of homework or get raffle tickets for prizes.

The Sangamon and Lincoln Trail reward system seemed to me to work without flaw. Students knew what they had to do to earn the prizes, and they tried hard to earn them. Bad behavior was addressed with consequences, like getting sent to see the principal.

I came into the Junior High expecting everything that Mahomet’s previous reward systems offered and more. But some differences in the systems really perplex me.

At the Junior High, Bulldog Bucks are what teachers and staff give to students when they put forward their best behavior. But to me, sometimes its not only good behavior that’s being rewarded.

In class a few weeks ago, most everyone was filling out their worksheet, as they were supposed to. However some students were persistently talking and throwing pencils for the entire period. The teacher was trying to quiet them down, but nothing really worked. This had been happening for the past few days. As this was happening, the rest of us were doing everything that was expected.

The next day, the students who misbehaved were rewarded with Bulldog Bucks because they didn’t throw any pencils. It puzzled me, because the reward is supposed to be for good behavior, not the absence of bad behavior. The rest of the respectful students and I were scratching our heads over what we just witnessed, why did they get rewarded? We didn’t throw any pencils, and we didn’t get any prizes.

The biggest flaw that I find with this system is that most students are not consistently changing their behavior. They have reached a point where they won’t stop misbehaving until they are rewarded for doing so. Therefore, I feel that this system is not serving its purpose. It also is noticeable that the kids acting up have more Bulldog Bucks than my friends and I do. To me, there is something wrong with that.

It seems to me what we need to consider is what we are supposedly telling kids about real life. I know for a fact that my mother doesn’t get rewarded by the police for not speeding, neither does my father get rewarded for being on time to work. In life, you are not rewarded for doing the bare minimum.  

I think that both students and teachers could benefit from a new system. I think we should make prizes suitable for only the best of behavior. Maybe we are getting to an age where we need to understand that there is a basic level of behavior that needs to be met, without needing a reward.

For me, and many of my friends, the system could be better. It seems to be rewarding those who don’t deserve it, and it is also teaching the wrong life lessons. I think that if the systems for rewarding were more consistent it would not only help maintain order, but also help give students a better understanding of expected behavior.

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