Saturday, February 28, 2009

Who Said Rewards Don’t Work?

Who said rewards don’t work?

Certainly I’d like to think that making Honor Roll is reward enough and that ca$h supplements aren’t necessary. Maybe, too, kids shouldn’t earn prizes for doing the homework teachers expect them to do anyway. And perhaps giving gift certificates to the Golden Arches doesn’t send the best message to your Citizen of the Month.

But the fact is that rewards can help principals improve school climate and achieve school-wide goals.

Got an attendance problem? There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition between classrooms to see which one can score the Best Attendance award for the month, like Principal Frank Hagen did at Saint Michaels (Maryland) Middle School.

Looking for a way to keep kids focused on improving their grades? Principal Jeffrey Isaacs told us about a program that's been going on for six years at Whitney Point (New York) High School. Perhaps a school-wide program that rewards homerooms with points based on how much students pull up their class averages from quarter to quarter is one that would work in your school too.

School looking shabby? Maybe the incentive that Marcia Wright, principal of Clinton (Michigan) Elementary School, told us about would work for you. Each week, her school’s custodian awards one class with the Golden Dust Pan. On the strength of the custodian’s personality -- and with a dash of fun and very little expense -- that reward is doing its part to make the school sparkle in more ways than a white glove can reveal.

Those are just a few of the rewards that principals shared in an article posted last week on Education World, School-Wide Rewards Improve Behavior, Boost Achievement.

Even if talk of those kinds of rewards gives Alfie Kohn heart palpitations, principals can’t ignore the value of creative or fun or healthful rewards as tools for achieving school-wide goals and maybe even improving school climate and spirit.

Perhaps you’re doing something in your school that is working successfully to instill good work habits, reinforce good character, improve test scores, or build school community. If so, it would be excellent of you to take just a moment to click the pencil icon below to comment: to share what you’re doing as food for thought (even if your "food for thought" doesn’t involve chocolate or an end-of-year banquet) for principals who are looking for cool ways to recognize students’ extra efforts.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cool School Tool #1: Build Your Wild Self

From time to time, I will share in this blog a “cool tool for schools.” This might be a tool you will want to use, or share with your staff, or pass along in a parent newsletter. The tools presented here will be simple or fun or both. This one fits the “both” category.

Build Your Wild Self

The Wildlife Conservation Society/New York Zoos and Aquarium has unveiled Build Your Wild Self, a fun tool that kids (and principals too!) are sure to love. Kids start by clicking the Body button and choosing their body (boy or girl) and skin color (from nine different skin tones that cover the gamut). Then they add their Hair, Eyes, Mouth, and Clothes. Then the Build Your Wild Self tool gets really cool! That’s when kids can dress up as their favorite animals by adding antlers, fins, tails, and more. Let every kid use this simple technology to create his or her “wild self” and then write a story about the adventures they had the day they became a “deer-pig-gator” or whatever their wild self is called. Teachers can post the kids’ stories on a bulletin board or in a class book titled “Room 12: Where the Wild Things Are.”

Does this look like a Cool School Tool you might use?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

So Michael Phelps Took a Few Hits on a Bong... But What If That Had Been a School Principal?

So, thanks to a Michael Phelps photo that found its way into the wrong hands (in this case, the hands of the British tabloid News of the World), he’s off the U.S. swim team for 90 days and out of at least one of his lucrative endorsement deals. The gold-laden swimmer -- who calls his pot-smoking experience a case of “bad judgment” and “regrettable” -- is taking a big “hit” for a youthful indiscretion. But is it really that big a deal? Some people are saying, So what? He’s human. He made a mistake. Let’s accept his apology and move on.

The Kellogg Company didn’t see it that way. When Phelps’ contract with them comes up for renewal at the end of this month, it will not be renewed. The fact that Kellogg “phired” Phelps is understandable. His face on the Corn Flakes box is among the first faces that millions of kids see each day. And I imagine the language in the swimmer’s Kellogg contract must spell out actions that would result in contract termination. So it seems logical that he would take a multi-million dollar endorsement “hit” for his bong behavior.

But it's not Phelps that I am concerned about. This blog entry is not intended to take "pot shots" at him. I have no doubt that he will rise to the gold medal platform again. I am more concerned about his mother, Debbie Phelps, a middle school principal. I’ve not seen any public comment from her, but I have to wonder how she is responding to those seventh graders in her school who have put her son on a pedestal. I'm hoping -- and thinking -- that she has turned this into a “teachable moment” about bad judgment and making good choices.

Which leads me to ponder… What if a photo surfaced in your town or one nearby that showed a school principal smoking marijuana? School principals may not earn gold medals for their accomplishments -- and they certainly don’t find their mugs on cereal boxes as much as they might deserve that recognition -- but they are role models who are expected to uphold the highest standards of responsible conduct. So how might your community handle that kind of news? That puffing principal’s name would be in the headlines (and off the office door) in a heartbeat, wouldn’t it? And shouldn't it be?