My Compass North

Personalized learning. So many beautiful, complex facets to those two words. Distilled to its essence, it has everything to do with respect…a deep, abiding respect for the uniqueness of each person. We. Are. All. Different. That is my compass. Everything I do comes from that space: creating learning experiences, choosing novels, sharing digital tools…they all come from my respect for who you are as a person. So, it’s not so hard to imagine what I believe about behavior, discipline, classroom management…whatever you want to call it. My compass? We. Are. All. Different.

Years and years ago, I used coupons in my classroom; the kids loved it. They collected the coupons and turned them in for “Booga Booga” bucks that they could use to buy extra recess, lunch with Mrs. Harrod, a book. It wasn’t until much later that I realized it had become about the reward. The reward…not the learning. The reward…not behaving because it’s the right thing to do. The reward. The reward.

Today, my learning space exudes a much different vibe. It begins with me knowing each of my students well. It continues with many, many learning pathways created to honor their uniqueness. Behavior issues? I have very few but when they do arise, I deal with them on a person-by-person basis. We. Are. All. Different. Although i occasionally give out tickets as part of our school-wide program, my students have shown little interest in them. Honestly, they are more intrigued by the learning happening in our classroom. Our fun is derived from the incredibly engaging learning experiences students choose to engage in. Don’t believe me? Listen to the interview my students participated in recently.

In the meantime, I encourage you to read a few of the resources that have guided me towards a deeper understanding of behavior. After perusing them, consider your own beliefs about discipline, motivation and classroom management. Do you want your students doing something FOR something? Or is the act, in and of itself, reward enough?

The Risks of Rewards

Declining Student Engagment: Are Extrinsic Motivators to Blame?

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes

Before You Hand Out Those Rewards – 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

The Bonus Effect: One Kind of Interest Rewards Don’t Kill

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

3 Reasons to Stop Rewarding and Punishing Children by Joe Bowers (Thanks for sharing, Shari!)

2 Comment

  1. Sheri Edwards says: Reply

    Hi Cary! I so agree with you post– it’s the doing that is the reward, so the doing must be engaging, purposeful, authentic. I can imagine being in your classroom, eager to learn through your guidance, because you would know and respect me as a person. It is difficult for others, who believe in the reward game, to understand that humans are driven by purpose and autonomy. That, if we can see the path ahead as attainable, that we will move forward to master. Complex thinking is not driven by rewards, but by curiosity in purpose. Thanks for posting your compass; I hope others in your school read your resources and join you in engaging with students on their terms. Continue a great year. And here’s a post by the late and much missed Joe Bower: to add to your list.

    1. charrod says: Reply

      Thanks so much for the reply, Sheri! I appreciate the kind words of support. Each day, my belief in intrinsic motivation is reaffirmed by 46 incredibly talented kids. Thanks for sharing Joe’s post; I’ve added it to the post. Let’s keep in touch!

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