English teacher Maria Wishart is taking a new approach to making a positive atmosphere in her classroom. This semester, each class has the opportunity to earn rewards for good behavior during class. For example, if the class is productive, focused and respectful, they will earn a paperclip to add to a paperclip chain. Each class has their own paperclip chain, and when the paperclip chain reaches a certain length, the class receives their reward.
“It is similar to elementary schools who do programs where kids “clip-up” or “clip-down”. I can’t manage that with over 100 students, so I tried it with a class,” said Wishart.
Each class was allowed to discuss and vote on their reward. Most classes chose ice cream or brownie sundaes, but one class opted to watch cartoons.
“People are motivated by different things, but most people are more motivated when there is a clear benefit,” said Wishart. “Abstract things like building character, making life easier for others, getting closer to graduation and other goals–tend to be abstract and difficult to measure. Ice cream is tangible and short-term.”
Wishart recognizes that there will be challenges with keeping an accurate record of how each class behaves. She also sees how a small number of students in any class can ruin the chances for everyone, which could lead to more frustration among classmates.
Despite those possible issues, Wishart is willing to motivate students in any way.
“I wish I could inspire more intrinsic motivation, but I am trying anything I can come up with to increase any type of motivation,” said Wishart.
Story by Angie Ceja