Each year our school has a theme. It's introduced to the parents on the first day of school and then implemented in the school and classrooms all year long. This year it is P.O.P.S. That stands for: Positive, Organized, Polite, and Safe. To get the kids to focus on what they are supposed to be learning, each classroom has a PAW (our school mascot is the Thunder Cat.) It has 50 squares that members of the class fill with smaller paws that the kids earn by doing the right thing. If a teacher or staff member notices a student doing the right thing (helping someone, walking on the correct side of the hall, etc.) they are given a paw to add to their classes paw. Once a classroom paw is filled the kids are given a reward. All of them are good things: reading to a younger class, a picnic, picking the lunch menu for a week. Fun stuff like that.
I don't think this theme is bad at all. I think it is wonderful that the school is focusing on teaching the kids to do these things. They should always be teaching these things to students. These are things that everyone needs to learn to be able to do to be respectful of their selves and others and good members of society. It seems to me that these are just givens. I am far from perfect on implementing these things at home but I am striving to teach my children the same things. And yes, sometimes I do still bribe my kids.
I don't have a great perspective on how it is working at the school. I'm not there as much as I used to be. But what I have observed is things kind of just seem the same as last year. If there is a group of kids in the hall together they are usually talking. When walking in a line they are seldom straight and they often take up the whole hall. Of course, that is only a small part of it, and I don't see all of the other ways they earn those paws.
My thoughts started bouncing as I mulled this over. It makes me wonder, why do they need the paws? Why are the students being 'rewarded' for something they are or at least should be expected to do? How do you decide which kid to reward? What about the students who always do the 'right' thing? You can't just keep giving them paws. They would get a bunch of them every day. So does that mean that the kids who have a problem following the rules are the ones who are getting most of the rewards when they do what they are supposed to? How is that making the other students feel? Then it begs the question, what will happen next year when the rewards are gone. For that matter, how is it going now? We all know the year starts off with a BANG! Everyone is excited. Students are on their best behavior. The students are aware of what they are doing because they know the teachers are looking. And the teachers are looking to 'catch' the students doing good. Was the students' behavior any different than normally would have been at the beginning of the year?
What about now? Are there still as many paws being given out? If not, why? Is it the students behavior worse or are the teachers too busy teaching to notice? Then there's the question of age. Have the younger classes gotten more full classroom paws then older classes? If so, is it because the tweens think it's silly or pointless? Why bother doing what you're supposed to if you think the rewards are dumb or you haven't been noticed for doing the right thing? And then I begin to wonder, if the students who normally do the right thing are actually aren't being noticed are they behaving worse because they aren't being noticed or rewarded for it. I also wonder if behavior is better, worse, or the same this year than in the past.
I wonder a lot don't I!
I don't have any of these answers. I'm sure the school has a big party planned for the end of the year to congratulate the students for all their hard work this year. A big theme wrap-up! And next year the theme will be different. What then?
My child has yet to come home and tell me she's gotten a paw. I don't know if she has or not, she probably has. Honestly, I'm glad she hasn't come home to tell me. She does and acts the way she believes to be correct, not because of the reward, but because she knows it's the right thing to do. She knows the rules and acts accordingly. If she doesn't like a rule she comes home and we talk about it. We talk about why her teacher or school feels the way they do and if it's something she can live with or something she wants to do something about. Then she chooses to follow through with the discussion or not.
For example, a couple of months ago Sweetie Heart (8) came home a bit worked up. Her teacher had told her that she was SH's mom while she was at school and was responsible for having SH do what her mom would have her do. Well, first off, Sweetie Heart was TICKED that her teacher would imply that she was like her mom. As she said, "She is NOT my mom!"
Second, Sweetie Heart was being told by her teacher that I would make her wear her coat out to recess, no matter how warm she felt. Her first mistake was to to say, "If your mom sent you to school in that coat, then she wants you to wear it." (SH decides which coat she's going to wear not me!) SH told her teacher that, in fact, I would not make her wear her coat. That I think she's old enough to make that kind of decision for herself. Her teacher told her to go home and ask me. I told SH that she was right, she knows if she's warm enough, not me. And that she could go back and tell her teacher so. If she needed to, her teacher could call me and we could discuss it. She did so and her teacher said okay, she didn't have to wear her coat if she was warm enough.
So in a nutshell, my opinion is of you want long term change you need to teach and train students/ children/ coworkers etc. what to do and hold them to that standard all day everyday. But if we want short term change that will fizzle and end , then go for the reward system. But that's just my opinion.
Updated: A friend who works in the school left this comment but I want to put it in this post. I like POPS even better now!
POPS is our school's implementation of a well researched and successful behavior model, it's not a 1 year theme. And I'm a fan, and from what I've seen, it fits well with the personal responsibility you work on with your family. PBIS is in place at VUMS/HS as well, encouraging a pattern of consistent expected behavior from K-graduation. Teachers and staff, not just students are recognized for P.O.P.S. behavior (and I think it's at least as hard if not harder for some teachers than many students.)
You can read more here pbis.org