13 comments
  1. Perfect, John. Parents of high school students are most appreciative of the calls home as they rarely hear from teachers. It's fun to catch kids being good!

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    1. So, true! Sometimes we forget that, though.

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  2. Great post John...I actually really needed this! The nuance that recognition is not the same as rewards really resonated with me.

    This has been a tough year for many reasons, one being that I blurred recognition and rewards after reading many other teacher's blogs (and Pink's work...). I strive for nuance, yet I was rigidly binary this year, giving little recognition to my students under the blurred vision of "well, you should be doing that...You don't get a reward for stopping at a red light!"...

    To be honest, though, I almost did not read this post because of the title: I thought it was yet another post bashing rewards and all that...I'm tired of that battle front in the Ed Reform Wars...My school district and school (the ones who had Gold Cards, it made national headlines...) has a different view point on motivation than I do! But, I digress...love the practicality and nuance...

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    1. I too enjoyed reading this post with my coffee this morning. I was going to comment, but then read these comments and you have summed up what I was going to say (even the comment about almost not reading this because of the title)! So I am going to simply say thank you for help me sort out my thinking.
      Sarah

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    2. The lack of nuance can be nauseating. Sometimes I feel that I do that better in my blog than on Twitter. It's easy to get lost in a stream of #chats.

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  3. The difference between recognition and reward is often blurred, but you succinctly differentiated them. Having a teacher notice something and comment after the fact is like hearing your parents brag about you when they don't know your around, it's nice to know achievement is noticed while keeping it solely 'yours.'

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    1. Thanks! I sometimes get lost in the distinction as well. Once recognition happens, a student can expect it and it becomes a part of the reward cycle.

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  4. I'm so on board with this! My 7th graders ask, "What do I get for it?" and I answer with a pat on the back and the words, "intrinsic motivation!" I'll be citing this post (if you don't mind), and Alfie Kohn, too, when I write my note to my parents next year! Thanks for another great post!

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    1. Very cool! It can be a hard paradigm shift and, like you, I have been heavily influenced by Alfie Kohn.

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  5. Thanks again for your story and the reflections. I have traced this exact path in my career and arrived at essentially the same place.

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    1. I think you and I have both been on a really similar philosophical journey. Kindred spirits in the ed world!

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  6. I want to add "respect" alongside the discussion of "reward" and "recognition".

    At work, I don't necessarily want a framed certificate commemorating a made-up award. I want to be treated with respect. I want to be trusted to use sick days appropriately, instead of having strict rules about it. I want people to email me with most questions/problems, instead of calling and disrupting what I'm doing. I want people to ask me when a decision they are making will affect what I do. My happiness hinges on whether I am respected, not whether I'm rewarded and recognized for slogging through a disrespectful worklife.

    Examples you've given in the past, like listening to the student who was showing up late repeatedly and helping him solve his problem, show the triumph of respect. You could have given him a candy bar for being on time to class, but what put him on the same team as you forever is that you helped him protect his sister.

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    1. I agree. Respect is both more powerful and more effective than any reward or incentive system. Why do teachers burnout? A major reason is a climate where they don't feel respected.

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Please leave a comment. I enjoy the conversation.