The English Teacher

Bribing and Bargaining with Students

Some teachers try to bargain or bribe their students into good behavior with rewards, such as food or videos. I have no comment on food, but videos as a reward conditions students not to learn from videos, not to take notes during them, and to turn off their minds to them once the video is over. Consider too, that the teacher can not show in school videos that some students watch outside of school and consider preferable, so that the desired behavior control of videos is limited at best and students may begin to demand further bribes for their continued good behavior.

Another bribe, often termed, a 'reward,' is a period of time when students don't have to do class work. In my opinion one should never reward a class for good behavior by saying that they don't have to do class work. The reward of not having to do work sends a very loud message that work is the opposite of a reward, that one is happiest getting out of work. So then, what are they working for, when no one likes it? The 'reward' should be an occasional change of pace to some other learning activity, perhaps a discussion, a play, riddles, etc. The reward actually arises from the teacher's awareness that the class has been working hard and they need a change of pace.

Don't 'tell' the class that you are giving a reward for good behavior toward yourself; then you are making a situation where the class can bargain with you. You can [and should] reward a class when they behave well for a substitute teacher. Don't reward with not having to do work, but perhaps by giving another day for an assignment.... Tell the class that you remembered their good behavior for the substitute. When they behave well for you, you are doing something right, keep it up. Change the pace by switching occasionally with other types of learning activities when they start to 'droop' and their good behavior should continue.

BTW- listening to student requests and complaints and changing something to their point of view, is not bargaining. If you listen to them, they will listen to you.

Also give them a choice of work options. I once had to increase the pace a class was reading The Odyssey. I gave them a choice of reading so many pages in 5 school days, or less pages per day but with an assignment over the weekend included, etc. We had two votes with a discussion in between. The students presented reasons for their voting the way that they did. The discussion changed the vote. I then printed up a new reading schedule according to the option that they chose, and I didn't hear another complaint about the pace, because they had had a part in choosing, and I had listened.

The Principle Involved is: Design the classes to elicit the behavior that you wish... notes, attention, reading... etc. They must be rewarded for this behavior by progress in their learning and their grade, not by peripheral rewards.

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