Confession. I have the Ron Clark bug. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, here is a little preview:
He did amazing things with his classroom and now he does amazing things with his school. At the heart of this success is high expectations for his students as people. He has 55 rules about behavior! He includes things like making eye contact, always saying thank you, answering questions with complete sentences, being grateful winners or losers and respecting others comments and ideas. I knew I wanted to bring some of these rules into my high school classroom but was hesitant to just lay them out with no incentive. (See the full 55 Essentials here!)
Lucky for me, I work with a math teacher who has found a brilliant way to incentivize behavior change. He has a couple of major pet peeves including sprinkling the word “like” throughout conversation unnecessarily and people saying, “I have a question” when they are called on after raising their hand or calling him over for help. At the beginning of the year he tells his students his pet peeves and challenges them to not break the rules. He asks them to set a cost to pay for breaking the rules (they usually decide on a dime or quarter). At the end of the year he uses any money collected to buy pizza for his classes. The great thing is that if you don’t break any rules, you get free pizza. If you did break a rule, you had to pay for it, but you still get pizza!
*If you didn’t pay, you didn’t get pizza however this doesn’t actually happen. Every year someone has donated money to wipe clean debts so that everyone has pizza.
I decided to combine the two ideas this past year and it went great! I told my students about both ideas and then told them while I didn’t want to enforce all 55 rules, I wanted them to choose three as a class to focus on for the quarter. They voted to pay a quarter for any time they broke the rule and we set a date for the pizza party at the end of the year.
How did I make kids pay money?
When someone broke a rule I just said, “quarter” and moved on with class. At the end of class I would tell the class that they owed money and someone would pay. Most of the time it was the person who broke the rule but I didn’t make a big point of calling someone out or bullying them in class. I am a teacher who teases light heartedly but it never became something awkward or rude.
Did parents/admin get upset?
Nope. I actually received two letter from parents saying that they appreciated the focus on manners!
What about the students who couldn’t afford it?
Like I said before, I never called out a kid for not paying and I often had students who would say they would like to wipe debts clean and pay a full dollar. I had one student donate twenty dollars near the end of the year to wipe out any debts that may exist.
I really enjoyed it and so did my students. I saw a lot of them become more aware of how they treated one another and we had a great time at the party with some great stories from the year!