Friday, October 7, 2011

Mixed Messages

Extrinsic motivators come in all shapes, sizes, textures, and dollar amounts. Despite their diversity they have a lot in common. Tears, confusion, outrage, diminished self-worth are just a few.

I have seen kiddoes cry because during an assembly 'hard work' on a standardized test is mentioned, but only those who paid off for the district (reaching goal and/or advanced on all sections) are rewarded with certificates and ice cream parties. What's the message that these kiddoes are receiving? That even if you work hard and fail you are unworthy of being recognized and receiving attention?

I have seen kiddoes become outraged because after being told how spending time reading all summer is going to help them be a better reader only certain kiddoes receive a pencil for it because they filled out a paper saying they read. What message does this send kiddoes? Reading only counts if you get something for it? You should lie about reading so that you can get something? Reading is something you do for someone else and not yourself?

I have seen kiddoes confused because they were kind or walking quietly in the hallway or using the bathroom appropriately and then got a piece of paper for doing it. What message does this send kiddoes? We don't do things because they are right but to get something for it? The only reason to behave like a responsible citizen is to be recognized or get paid for it?

We may be telling children to work hard, try their best, reading builds success, be responsible, be kind. We may be telling them to do these things because it makes us feel good. We may be telling them to do these things because it's important to take care of other people. Giving rewards reverses all of this. Rewards make our words worthless. Rewards make us a fraud. Rewards teach children to distrust and be distrustful.

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