Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chocolate for Everyone!

Celebrating success in the classroom builds community. When a student comes up for air while reading that just right book and grins. She just smiles, ear-to-ear, we celebrate that reading moment. We celebrate by sharing, by taking the time to talk. It could be that we talk about a piece of writing or a book or an epiphany. It could be that I celebrate a child's learning through lamination or magic wand action--scanning the piece with a handheld scanner to save and savor the student's success.

Our new teacher evaluation system requires teachers to celebrate success connected to a lesson's learning goal. It is my weakest area on my recent observation. I don't celebrate during every lesson. During my pre-observation conference my administrator reminded me to be sure to have students give themselves a pat on the back or a round of applause. I told him that probably wouldn't happen. He'd seen the real thing during an informal observation. Students broke into spontaneous applause after a small group presentation. The group did a bang-up job and that authentic applause acknowledged their home run.

We do celebrate, but it usually happens spontaneously. Students applaud after a moving presentation or in the hush and rush of feeling that follows a read aloud of a touching piece of writing. Those things don't happen everyday.

I do plan for celebrations too, it's not always spontaneous.  Though I appreciate Alfie Kohn's work on rewards as punishments, I do occasionally reward students.  I have a compliment board in my classroom, an idea I learned from my son's kindergarten teacher. When other adults (teachers, administrators, substitutes, guests, etc) compliment my students, the class gets a star. Five compliment stars earns the class a treat, a celebration.

This week the ROTC students are selling chocolate. I found a twenty floating in the flotsam of my school bag the other day. I rustled up a few more dollars. I owed sixth period a treat.  One of my students came in carrying chocolate and I had an idea.

"How many candy bars do you have in your box?" I asked the ROTC cadet.
"Oh, Miss, it's full. I've hardly sold any," she replied.
"Well then, why don't I just buy candy bars for everyone," I told her.
"What?! For the whole class?"
"Yes! Chocolate for everyone!"

 I took the box and toured the room, letting students pick out which candy bar they wanted. It was like being queen of the classroom for a moment. It felt like a surprise party. The kids, loved it.


  1. How cool - a reward for the student selling the candy and a reward for the class as a whole. And I'm with you, required celebration in every lesson devalues it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Yes- a required celebration devalues the learning. It is the authentic moments we celebrate. How fortuitous that during my observation Cassie has some insight and I got spontaneous goosebumps. She got it! I told her so. Now will my administrator recognize it? Does everyone really need a trophy? Having this as a component of our evaluation has made me really think about the importance of celebration and the authenticity of celebration.

  3. Ugh, kids aren't stupid...they know when something is phony and they know what it is worth. I love that you told your administrator "that probably wouldn't happen." Good for you for standing by your values for authenticity with your kiddos.

    1. Thanks, Lee Ann, my administrator and I had a like-minded conversation about it. How difficult it must be for those leaders to hold a party line they don't believe in either.