Sunday, September 7, 2008


ME: So, what’s the best thing about the second grade?

HEIDI (my granddaughter): Tickets.

ME: Tickets?

HEIDI: You get tickets for being good, and then you get to spend them on stuff.

ME: Like what?

It works this way:

5 tickets: You get to have a stuffed animal on your desk for one whole day. Said stuffed animals are stored in the teacher's closet, and include Mike Wozinski and Randall, from Monsters, Inc.; an alien from Toy Story; and various neo-pets (whatever those are).

10 tickets: You get to have lunch in the cafeteria with the friend of your choice, even if that person is not in your class, or you get to chose something from the Prize Box. Things in the Prize Box include rings, rulers, bracelets, small skateboarder action figures.

15 tickets: You get to be excused from half of your homework.

20 tickets: You get to have lunch with your teacher and a friend of your choice, even if that friend is not in your class, or you get to choose something from the Treasure Box. The Treasure Box includes...better stuff.

There are also class tickets given for exemplary group behavior, like lining up in a straight line, walking quietly through the hall, not talking to members of other classes who may or may not be lined up straight next to your straight line in the cafeteria, smooth (and quiet) transitions from one area in the classroom to another, and speedy restroom visits. Ms Purcell, the teacher, sets a goal for the class—say, winning 25 tickets in a week. If they meet the goal, they vote (heads on desk, eyes closed so they don’t just vote the way their friends vote) for a class party, popsicles for everyone, an extra recess—or various other perks. NOTE: Tickets can be taken away, in the case of really, really bad behavior.

As an extra added bonus, if you get a sticker or stamp (designating perfection) on one paper every day of the week, you get to choose something from the prize box on Friday.

In her cousin Jake's first grade classroom, things are a little less baroque.

In Ms Bailey's class, you have magnetic sticks that are in play on a daily basis. If you’re good in a regular way, your stick stays in place. If you’re really, really good, you get to put your stick in the special section reserved for members of the Compliment Club. If you’re bad, you have to put your magnet on The Can. (A real can, but I don’t know how big it is or what it looks like, though I have to say it sounds alarmingly like a trash can to me.) At the end of the day, you get a smiley face on the calendar in your loose-leaf notebook if you’ve been good, a frowny face if you’ve been bad.

ME: Does the teacher draw it?

JAKE: We draw it. That’s how we learn.

ME: Okay, then.

Ah, to live in a world where everything so clear-cut, rewards and consequences are immediate, and you get to start over every single week!


Lee Wind said...

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive, but I wonder if it's a little bit like animal-training, having the teachers dole out rewards for good behavior... or more specifically, for behaviors they want kids to exhibit. I know it's useful to say you have to finish your healthy food before having dessert, and I know that's really bribery (what parents like me prefer to call "positive re-inforcement") but this sounds a little too focused on rewards for me... But I agree that getting to start each week with a fresh slate is a lovely gift - maybe one we could each give ourselves?

Barbara Shoup said...

I agree with you, it's a little alarming--and, yep, it's pretty much bribery. It just made me laugh, and also made me think about how sweet and eager-to-please kids can be at that age. I just love these little windows into their world views.
Sometime soon I'll ask them about what they're learning and what the teachers do to make them like (or not like) it--and blog about that.