There is an endemic problem going on in many of our elementary schools it is the phrase “I’m going to count to five,” (for many sociologists and college professors 5 wasn’t enough and now its 10) the phrase is then often followed by some kind of false praise, ” students I KNOW that by the time I get to five all of my wonderful children will be quietly sitting in their seats.” This of course leads to many of the students doing nothing about it and others waiting until the teacher reaches the count of 4 so indeed they prove that they can learn, just the wrong lesson. Wow, the students have been given not only a second chance to do it right but 4 second chances on a daily basis. What a life skill that will be for them to hold onto in the real world. A skill we teach as we un-intentionally condition them to ignore the first 4 warnings and only respond to the 5th. I am sure that is the same technique that will be used and “work well ” for on them when they develop the warning signs of a heart attack or cancer, get a letter from the IRS or when they get their first traffic ticket.
The teacher might as well start paying them cash for doing what should be expected behavior. This is not unlike saying to criminals if you just don’t rob a bank this week we’ll give you 1000 dollars. In fact we are now often paying our school children not for truly good behavior but in fact giving them a reward for amounts to only “tolerable” behavior and the nebulous ” improvement.” Payments are already being made in some form in most of our schools; as store tickets, funny money, reward chits, field trips, etc. and in some places actual money is being paid out.
Paid out in a glorified perversion of the already perverted parental payments for good grades(sorry all of you who do this it’s not unlike paying politicians so they won’t lie, you shouldn’t have to do it and it sets a bad standard). Good grades are not an extra, they should be an expectation of our children. The idea that someone pays you for doing what is right is so foreign to my upbringing that I can’t even express how wrong it feels to me. It also smells of treating our children like lab rats in some huge conditioned reflex experiment. In a sobering thought you have to wonder will the purchased conditioned behaviors we buy from our children through rewards last when we are in the nursing home or will they extinguish when we can no longer reward them?
And of course for teachers functioning under the rules of Positive Behavior Systems while you are rewarding what should have been expected and required you must at the same time ignore the bad behaviors because there is no way to correct them in a positive manner(in effect rewarding them as well). Like it or not, humans both adults and children, run in packs, the success and behavior of the adults in the pack is not often driven by empathy gained from strokes and rewards but by mutual respect gained through honesty, toughness, fairness, comforting and rewarding behaviors with respect, not candy or money. This respect package will occasionally include snarls and biting when deserved. When we attempt to change that pack dynamic through conditioned reflex ( material or physical rewards) we must understand that a wolf is still a wolf and a child is still a child and when we mistakenly believe we have tamed a wolf or changed a child’s behavior through unremitting kindness, permissiveness and purchased behavior rather than shared respect. We must realize that under the rules of constantly rewarded conditioned reflex that when the rewards stop those purchased behaviors will cease almost immediately, usually at exactly the wrong moment when the feral nature of wolves and the behaviors of children will once again reassert themselves. Indeed under the reward systems now in use in schools our children may end up with an almost perfect operant conditioning, (expectation of reward) unfortunately this expectation of constant reward is not the one intended when the reward was first given.