Teacher reward systems

Isaac Sierra

With a loud sigh, I retrieve my lyric sheet for a song in Spanish class. I temporarily refuse to sing out loud, but the candy jar in the corner catches my eye. I decide to sing loudly for all to hear, determined to win a candy bar. My teacher smiles and hands me one as the song finishes and I satisfyingly tear off the candy wrapper, celebrating my success.

  Many teachers at West Ottawa use reward systems, and they use them in different ways. One distinctive similarity arises among these systems: no matter what the system is used for, students at WO will do whatever it takes for a sweet reward.

 In instructor Emily  Laatz’s Spanish class, Laatz uses a candy reward system for various purposes. Students can win candy for anything from turning in a homework assignment to getting first place in Kahoot. Although reward systems can be misconstrued as making little difference in motivating students, students in Laatz’s classroom prove the opposite. “Every day in Spanish, we listen to a Spanish song. Although Mrs. Laatz encourages us to sing, most kids don’t. I typically wouldn’t either, but one day she had a candy jar filled with chocolate and Mrs. Laatz said that whoever sang would get a piece. I couldn’t resist and I sang the entire song along with some other kids to win the candy,” Soph. Madison Mitchell said. Unless they are in choir, most students at WO are unwilling to sing voluntarily in a classroom setting. However, when presented with a sweet incentive, students willingly do whatever it takes, even if it requires singing in front of the entire class.

 Although candy reward systems seem to be implemented in less challenging courses, Mrs. Meyer’s classroom challenges this belief fully with her AP Calculus students. Her system involves bigger candy bars but more difficult ways to obtain them. In order to win a candy bar, a student must get 100% on a chapter test. In any ordinary class, getting a perfect score on a test may not seem challenging, but for Calc students, a 100% can appear daunting, if not impossible. “Throughout the year, I only got one 100% because of how hard the tests were. But the night before every test, I would do just a little extra bit of studying with the candy bar in mind. I can’t say the candy bar was my only incentive for studying, but it definitely was a big factor,” Jr. Joe Sigler said. When taking a rigorous class like AP Calc, students can find it difficult to stay motivated, but when offered a candy bar for performance on a test, even the least motivated students will put in the additional effort.

 Many other teachers use reward systems with similar sweet prizes. In Mr. Strobel’s AP Language class, students are entered into a drawing for free doughnuts whenever they find vocabulary words outside of class. In Mrs. Salinas’ class, students are entered into a drawing for candy whenever they get a Bingo, and in Mr. Halloran’s class, students are awarded a doughnut whenever they get 100% on a test.

 Sweet treats may seem to have minimal influence on students at WO, but students will do anything for them whether it be a simple assignment or singing in front of the entire class.