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RiRi

Classroom Incentives

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RiRi

In school, sometimes teachers give prizes to students if they behave well or if they're an exceptional student. Were you ever one of those students? What gifts, presents, certificates did your teachers give to their students in your classes?

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Nesf

My school gave out prizes and awards for achievement in each of the subjects, but I was never given anything. In German, I was top of the class, but the award went to another girl who was preparing to apply for Oxford. The teachers didn't like me much, and these awards were always given to the more popular, socially active students. I feel that the awards were often given to further the schools interests more than anything else, as this girl's getting into Oxford would boost the school's public image.

Edited by Nesf

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Heather

I remember getting a few small incentives in school.  Sometimes they were small fun erasers ( I remember a little penguin eraser from kindergarten or grade 1, another girl and I got one when we sat on the carpet first before everyone else ) or stickers on our finished assignments... 

One of the bigger things my elementary school did was host an "Awards Night" where they gave out the honor roll, high honor roll, and merit roll and also some special awards that were given out more rarely.  I got the honor or high honor roll a lot of times and always merit roll, because I was good and cooperative in class. That just reminded me, everyone also got two descriptive words to describe how the teacher saw us in class, maybe to attempt to describe our strengths.  I feel like I got thoughtful a lot.  

I can't remember much about incentives in high school, probably because the main incentive was getting a good final grade.  I might just be forgetting anything else.

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Alice

Not really. I was put up a year in primary school. I went to 15 different schools in total (I had to recount), between moving a lot with my mother, then with various foster homes, so most of my time was trying to adjust - there wasnt really room to excel. It was a whirlwind. 

In university I got the Deans Award for Academic Excellence and into Golden Key Society (which I dont think was that hard to get into but it still was nice), I got a scholarship for a small amount of financial aid for my studies as well.

Edited by Alice

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Sanctuary

When I was at school (a long time ago) I don't recall individual teachers giving out "prizes" or specific rewards in lessons. There were formal awards evenings and in my final two years I got an award - the first for French, the second for English Language.. I think it was a book token each time.

Speaking more broadly (and as a former teacher) I do not support these sorts of prizes and awards. I am absolutely in favour of teachers giving due praise in lessons but not awards of these kinds. I feel they smack of elitism and can often be random or even show favouritism and spark resentment. There might be a case for awards or prizes if certain objective criteria have been met, e.g. for the highest mark in an exam, but this seems unnecessary as the high grade or mark is already its reward. Often it just leads to the most successful students having even more success piled on them while others (especially those who work away quietly and unconspicuously) being overlooked. I'm also opposed to statuses such as "Head Boy" or "Head Girl" which exist in many schools in the UK (I'm not sure if they have these in other countries). I would rather we move away from this kind of individualism and elitism.

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RiRi
On 3/14/2019 at 3:37 AM, Nesf said:

My school gave out prizes and awards for achievement in each of the subjects, but I was never given anything. In German, I was top of the class, but the award went to another girl who was preparing to apply for Oxford. The teachers didn't like me much, and these awards were always given to the more popular, socially active students. I feel that the awards were often given to further the schools interests more than anything else, as this girl's getting into Oxford would boost the school's public image.

That is unfair and unfortunate both for when you were younger and when you were older. Were you the same age as this girl who got into Oxford? I think the teacher acted unfairly in this situation. If she wanted to give the other girl a prize, she should have also given one to the top ones in the class, if she wanted to at least be somewhat fair, instead of relying more on favoritism. 

I can relate to you. There were times I also felt like teachers didn't like me much. There was one grade where I thought I'd be chosen for something and wasn't. I was in shock when I didn't. Instead of getting down and giving up, I tried harder. I didn't feel any resentment towards the teacher, instead, I took some resentment to myself. I felt like I had done something wrong and that's why I wasn't chosen. The next time, I was chosen. I never figured out why I wasn't chosen first. I always felt I had done something wrong but it might have been something totally off where the teacher maybe just disliked me for no reason and she later on grew on to like me. I had teachers later on in my life, where no matter what I did, nothing was ever good enough. In one instance, academically, I was one of the best students in the class but they never picked me for anything. I realized later on they just didn't like me. They didn't tell me, I just became more knowledgeable and noticed the signs of a person who is not in tune with your personality. That's okay, I didn't need to try and make them like me anymore or anyone in the future for that matter. 

Where it becomes tricky though is when a teacher doesn't like you for no reason or because they're not in tune with your personality or maybe they're racist and that affects your grade. A couple of teachers didn't like me at uni and I felt they would grade everything I did harsher. It was unfair.

Edited by RiRi

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RiRi
10 hours ago, Sanctuary said:

Speaking more broadly (and as a former teacher) I do not support these sorts of prizes and awards. I am absolutely in favour of teachers giving due praise in lessons but not awards of these kinds. I feel they smack of elitism and can often be random or even show favouritism and spark resentment. There might be a case for awards or prizes if certain objective criteria have been met, e.g. for the highest mark in an exam, but this seems unnecessary as the high grade or mark is already its reward. Often it just leads to the most successful students having even more success piled on them while others (especially those who work away quietly and unconspicuously) being overlooked. I'm also opposed to statuses such as "Head Boy" or "Head Girl" which exist in many schools in the UK (I'm not sure if they have these in other countries). I would rather we move away from this kind of individualism and elitism.

I disagree with the idea of not giving a reward on top of a high grade. I think it's good to reward and encourage positive behavior. There are students who do work silently but if this student is getting the highest grades, at least in my class, this student wouldn't go unnoticed. I do agree that random gifts should not be given or if they are, to make sure that the absolute best student academically also gets a reward. What @Nesf described with the girl getting into Oxford, I think that was favoritism. @Nesf should have been rewarded. At least if I was the teacher, if I were giving out rewards, I would have given the student with the highest grades, their reward.

What is head boy/head girl? 

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Nesf
13 hours ago, RiRi said:

That is unfair and unfortunate both for when you were younger and when you were older. Were you the same age as this girl who got into Oxford? I think the teacher acted unfairly in this situation. If she wanted to give the other girl a prize, she should have also given one to the top ones in the class, if she wanted to at least be somewhat fair, instead of relying more on favoritism. 

Yes, at the time I was very disappointed and thought it was unfair. She was the same age and in the same class as me, and it wasn't the first time that she had been chosen over me. I don't begrudge her and I'm not saying that she didn't deserve to get an award, but it seemed like they always chose her over me, and I was as good as her and if she deserved one, then so did I. Favouritism isn't supposed to exist in schools, but it does. Teachers always have favourites, and as I mentioned, most didn't like me. I didn't realise how much and how many disliked me until I saw some of my old reports. I felt like I was being punished for not being one of the popular ones, and instead of being encouraged.

13 hours ago, RiRi said:

Where it becomes tricky though is when a teacher doesn't like you for no reason or because they're not in tune with your personality or maybe they're racist and that affects your grade. A couple of teachers didn't like me at uni and I felt they would grade everything I did harsher. It was unfair.

Yes, this really sucks. It's unfair.

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Sanctuary
13 hours ago, RiRi said:

What is head boy/head girl? 

The Head Boy / Head Girl are the students whom a school thinks are its most impressive members. I think it's usually an honorary or ambassadorial role rather than one with authority so the Head Boy or Head Girl wouldn't be in charge of other students but they might well represent the school when a visitor arrives or a special event occurs. Often he / she is a very high academic achiever but they may also be seen as having other talents in terms of personality, sporting or musical achievements, etc. I think a lot of these things were originally done to emulate the private, fee-paying schools which are built on such elitism. These things along with awards, merit tables and so on seemed to be on the decline in British schools but have come back strongly in recent years as various governments have pushed the idea that "competition drives up standards". It can do this but often at the expense of discouraging cooperation and of course those students who don't achieve so well or miss out on awards can feel overlooked and even resentful.

I take your earlier point about recognising achievement and I absolutely agree that we must show students that their efforts are valued. However I worry that the formal system of doing this with prizes, merits or other forms of official recognition is too often done in too a subjective manner and can lead to unfairness of the sort Nesf outlined. Another issue I have is that there is the risk of merits or other rewards being given for the wrong things, even sometimes as a kind of bribe. Many years ago I came across a student whose behaviour was quite appalling but who had been given a huge number of merits by teachers and teaching assistants, perhaps in the hope that it would lead to him being more positive about school - which it didn't. There are other cases where badly-behaved students have been "rewarded" in this way while dedicated, well-behaved students are overlooked. This kind of use of rewards creates disillusionment and even resentment.

This is why I'd prefer awards to be granted according to clear objective criteria which all the students know about. There can be value in using them for standards that are easily overlooked and not otherwise rewarded such as 100% attendance or 100% punctuality.

  

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HalfFull

I was first in my class to learn my 12 times table when I was 7. I don't remember getting a prize but I may have got one. That same year I won a group prize for making the best 'litter monster' and we got to plant our own tree and a day out in the Lake District instead of going to school that day.

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