And at the end of an extremely frustrating assignment with many difficult kids, the answers became much clearer. They always equated to recognition and rewards.
In the first case, congratulating problem kids on progress inevitably created additional progress. Whether it’s kindergarten or overactive sixth graders, assuring kids of improvement created increased cooperation. Could it be that adults receiving positive reinforcement also act in ways to generate more of it?
While I have neither the means nor desire to bestow copious (extravagant) gifts on my students, I make it a point to do what I can. Jealousy is toxic and undesirable. But I’m always amazed at the value of small tokens in terms of student reactions and appreciation.
For example, I gave one of my sweetest and most helpful girls a small animal that I bought at Rocky Mountain National Park. Every morning, she proudly displayed it, returning it to a safe hiding place.
But more gratifying than this was the young lady who was flagged as a problem and troublemaker. In addition to acknowledging each of her accomplishments, I discovered that she loved Hershey kisses.
Happily, I found one in my bag and discreetly passed it to her. She smiled all over her face and gave me a hug. Of course, I’ll be replenishing my kisses for our next encounter.
My most treasured gift to them is free time. It makes me a hero, communicates that I understand their need for fun and makes them smile.
While I have no advanced education degrees, I have substantial years of living on this planet. Through this, I have learned that listening, respecting, encouraging and rewarding work is a celebration for all parties involved. Shalom.