Staff Memo

Nov. 15, 2013

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More on praise and feedback

From Marvin Marshall's monthly blog and worth thinking about considering or most recent PD:

A Calgary (Canadian) school has decided to axe all certificates and ceremonies honouring academic and athletic achievement.

St. Basil Elementary and Junior High School is doing away with all certificates and ceremonies honouring academic and athletic achievement believing that awards eventually lose their lustre to students who get them while often hurting the self-esteem and pride of those who don't get a certificate.

There's a difference between what psychologists call intrinsic motivation to learn which is where kids are excited about the learning itself, and extrinsic motivation which is where they do something to get a goodie--a trophy, a pat on the head, a dollar, a grade--according to Alfie Kohn, author of "Punished by Rewards."

"It's not just that those two things are different. It's that they move in opposite directions, so the more you reward people for doing something the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward."

"Rewards may motivate students to get rewards, but that's likely to be at the expense of engagement with the learning itself. Awards are even worse than rewards because an award is a reward that has been made artificially scarce, so if I get one you probably can't," Kohn continued in the interview.

"The research shows very clearly that three things tend to happen when students are encouraged to focus on getting good grades. The first is that they become less excited about the learning itself. The second is that they tend to become less likely to think deeply. The third thing that happens is when you get kids focused on grades they pick the easiest possible task when given a choice--not because they're lazy, but because they're rational."

Kohn says teachers and schools should instead be providing feedback aimed at helping students succeed. "If a kid clearly isn't getting it in math, the last thing you want to do is say to this kid publicly, 'You're a loser,' or put an F or a low mark on the paper. For most kids that almost guarantees continued failure in the future, Kohn said in the interview.

He concluded, "You don't just get rid of awards assemblies because they make the kids that don't get rewards feel bad. You get rid of awards assemblies because they're not useful for (most) kids.


Alfie Kohn is not the only one to suggest that rewards are counterproductive to creating and maintining effort for quality learning. Many authorities have similar beliefs. Here are just a few from various authorities according to Deci and Ryan's, "Intrinsic Motivation and Self Determination in Human Behavior," page 247:

"When children are learning intrinsically, they tend to interpret their successes and failures as information rather than as rewards and punishments."

"To offer a prize for doing a deed is tantamount to declaring that the deed is not worth doing for its own sake."

"Effective learning occurs when the primary reward is one's intrinsic satisfaction with one's accomplishments."

"We destroy the love of learning in children by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty rewards such as gold stars, papers marked 100 tacked on walls, and honor rolls."

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Book Room Procedures

Cathleen has spent hours working in our new book room located in the library workroom. In order to make sure we are all on the same page regarding how to use the Bookroom, please read below:

  • No check out system that entails writing – honesty policy
  • Use what you take and return often
  • Email staff with “Looking for "name of book” in the subject line
  • Pick up after yourself (and others)
  • Thank Cathleen for all of her work

In the Bookroom are LLI materials (Leveled Literacy Intervention) that support our struggling third and fourth grade readers. Todd will be using these materials for his Learning Club. If others of you are interested in learning how to use these materials, please let me know.

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What are you reading?

Please take a moment to update your "What you are reading" poster outside your classroom door. Make it simple if need be. The Indy Star, Time magazine, Email, etc. all can work. Think of the variety of things you read each day.

Kristin H and I were talking today and we want our kids to see us as readers. This is one little way we can do so.
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Walking Laps at Recess

At the beginning of the year we talked a bit about logical consequences for behavior. I want to encourage us to continue to find logical consequences. Walking laps is not one of those unless something happens at recess causing a child to lose social time with friends.

Walking laps at recess is something numerous parents do not support. When a parent asks why their child has to walk laps. I tell them my goal is to eliminate lap walking at recess time.

I know this has been a CRE tradition and there is argument that a child is getting exercise while taking a consequence. Let's continue to find consequences connected to the behavior so that students understand the cause and effect nature of choices.

Walking laps is not a real life consequence. What would it take to be able to assure parents that we are ending this practice by the end of first semester?

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Doors, Locking, and Muscle Memory

Our new office door is locked. Period. It won't be unlocked at all. The only way you can get through it is with the "buzzer."

We are all going to have to train our muscles to open different doors, go through different doors, and find new routines for entering the building.

The easiest way I can think about entering the front doors is this:

  • When the office is open (8:00-4:15), all the front doors are unlocked.
  • When the office is open, the new vestibule doors are locked.

This means:

  • You do NOT need your Inteli-Key to come in the front doors and into the vestibule from 8:00-4:15.
  • This does mean you will have to be buzzed into the office to get into the building from 8:00-4:15.
  • If this seems troublesome, you can use your Inteli-Key and enter the building anytime using the gym doors or the kindergarten doors.

Evenings and weekends (after 4:15 and until 8:00 AM Monday-Thursday and Friday 4:15-8:00 AM Monday):

  • The vestibule door pictured above is unlocked. Look for the vestibule door with the sign on it and come on in.

If all of this feels crazy, it is. But it will get easier and before long we'll forget there was any other system but this one.

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Looking Ahead

Monday, Nov. 18 Day 4

  • Pledge - Hale
  • 3:10 Team 2 PD Collab

Tuesday, Nov. 19 Day 1

  • 8:00 Interest Group PD - Diversity with Angie and Jami in the art room
  • 1:00-3:00 Elem Principals' meeting at CRE
  • 3:10 Team 3 PD Collab

Wednesday, Nov. 20 Day 2

  • 3:10 Team 4 PD Collab

Thursday, Nov. 21 Day 3

  • 8:00 Office meeting
  • 3:10 Collab Team K

Friday, Nov. 22 Day 4

  • $1 Hat Day
  • 8:00 Discussion mtg - Lisa's office
  • 3:10 Collab Team 1

Monday, Nov. 25 Day 1

  • Pledge - Coldren
  • 3:10 Team 2 Collab
  • 4:00 Math Study group in PD room or library

Tuesday, Nov. 26, Day 2

  • 9:30-11:00 Budget Committee mtg - Lisa gone
  • 2:00 Zachary's Trix Sticks Assembly in gym
  • 3:10 Team 3 Collab