November 25, 2009

Never Underestimate the Power of Stickers

I remember that moment in my second year of teaching when one of my freshmen asked, "Why don't you ever give us stickers?"

Several students agreed, nodding their heads, "Yeah! Stickers!"

"Stickers?" I said, wrinkling my nose, "For what?"

"You know, like when we do good on something."

"What? Are you kidding me? This is high school! You want me to put stickers on your papers?" I could not believe this craziness.

Many of the students were enthusiastic at the idea of stickers.

So, I bought stickers. I'm not really that cutesy, but making the transition to stickers was not so tough. I'm kind of a smiley face fan. I used stickers for special occasions, for example, when they received a good score on a test. Or sometimes I would pass out stickers when homework wasn't being completed. I was always shocked when even the macho boy athletes would beg for stickers. And then the next day more people would have homework...

I know it's dirty and wrong to bribe like that, but it's a freakin' STICKER! If it works...

I even started doing other cutesy stuff like stamping things with scented ink, and sending out smiley face postcards for students performing well in class. Those postcards were a pretty big deal! Shocked, shocked, shocked, how much those teens like that stuff.

Now that I am at a middle school, I still use stickers, but mostly for reading logs.

Today, I had every intention of going around to the students to check to see that they are staying up on this long-term writing project we are doing with The Diary of Anne Frank, which is also set up like a diary. Unfortunately, I ran out of time in a few of my classes. I had no intention of giving them grades yet--I just wanted to see that they had the 5 entries that we've completed so far.

In 5th hour, several of the students were put out that I was not going to be able to look at their journals, although I had already shared with them that I wasn't going to put it into the grade book anyway. According to the clock, I only had 5 minutes, so I said, "Okay, if anybody wants to show me that you've completed your entries, I'll give you a frog sticker." This appeased the few who wanted me to follow through on my plan, but it also compelled more students than I thought to take their laptops back out to show me their work.

Several wanted a sticker although they had not completed all the work: "See, Miss--I've done almost 5. Okay, only really 3, but can I have a sticker?"

They wanted a sticker.

A sticker.

A STICKER!

It's not even a very big sticker!

More than decade later after I first encountered it, this phenomenon never ceases to amaze me.

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