Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What's Good for the Goose...

One of the best ways to get the results you want, particularly in classroom management, is to use positive reinforcement.  Teachers are expected to positively reinforce good student behavior in order to eliminate poor student behavior. 

This is not a bad thing.  It's very much a good thing and usually works.  Then again, are students learning to behave as they should because it's the right thing to do or because they get a treat if they do?  A perfect question for a debate, but not the subject of what I want to type about here.

I was reading a blog article that came through on one of my facebook feeds and the first numbered bullet point on "Acknowledgement" really hit home (or in my case, hit apartment).  Less and less, teachers are not acknowledged (to show or express appreciation or gratitude) for the things they do right.  You know?  Positive Reinforcement. 

If a student is acknowledged when they do something right and therefore keep up the same behavior and skill because of that "Great job, Awesome Student!", whether it be the ability to actually recognize that the word good is not an adverb or they gathered all the handouts for everyone in their group because they were the first to class and had the time, don't you think a teacher would do the same thing? 

We are just as human as the students we teach; however, the vocal part of society either forgets this or ignores it.  With the exception of family and friends, "I" get blamed for many things outside my control and painted with a broad brush as a greedy con artist using the nation's children as a way to make money without really doing any work or caring about them.  And if I speak out in defense of myself and my colleagues? Then, I'm obviously not a good teacher.  "Good" teachers don't speak out against criticism like that in Waiting for Superman.  "Good" teachers praise the criticism and applauded the charter schools that always succeed (see this Washington Post article for those that missed the sarcasm).  "Good" teachers are somehow supposed to enjoy the abuse meted out by the critics.  Sorry, but I'm no Anastasia Steele.  I'm better written then that.

Sometimes, I can't really blame them. All I seem to hear from the news is about the bad teachers.  The sick, twisted people who find their way into schools and do unspeakable things.  These people don't deserve to be defended.  You rarely hear about the heroics of teachers (like this one and this one); and if you do, the stories die down rather quickly.

So, if positive reinforcement is good enough for us to use with our students, why isn't it good enough for "society" to use with teachers?  Teachers will be less burned out and become less cynical about their profession and how it is viewed if what they do right is being positively reinforced, rewarded, or acknowledged instead of pointing to everything they do "wrong". 

It's a process that I know isn't going to happen overnight.  I know that I need to work on improving the amount of positive reinforcement I use in my classroom.  But, according to the California Cheese commercials, happy cows make good cheese.  Happy teachers make good students.