Pay for Good Grades

As a former NYC high school teacher, I must expound on a subject that fellow NY Metblogger Eric touched on as part of his blog entry entitled “More Incentives” on 6/19

As a teacher in the inner-city, I was constantly searching for ways to incentivize my students to study and raise their grades. I was not allowed to give money but I ran contests to compensate them for the things they were supposed to be doing, like coming every day to class on time for a week, or turning in homework for a whole week. I gave pizza parties, I took winners to lunch– you name it. And it was always the same kids who won all the time; the kids who reaped the benefits were the students who did these things anyway — incentive or not. The students who were habitually late, cut class, or failed quizes didn’t change their ways. But what they did do was try any way they could to trick the system, like coming in on ttime, sitting at their desks, but running out when I turned my back. Or better yet, running in before the late bell and then falling asleep, surreptitiously text-messaging under the desk, or otherwise continuing the bad habits they always had. Or worse, arguing and making excuses for missing the mark, and demanding pizza lunch anyway.

No, the only money incentive they could see was the lure of the NBA, MLB. a starring role in a music video, or a record contract. Once when American Idol auditions came to town, a bunch of my students announced to me that they wouldn’t be back next week — they were all off to Hollywood, because certainly they would wow the judges and be selected.

I don’t have the answer or I would be writing this from a plush well-appointed office rather than my apartment. But I can tell the Mayor and the Chancellor that it’s going to take more than a few hundred dollars given to the students who would do well anyway. Unlike Eric, my parents never paid me for good grades. When I told them they should pay me for my A’s, they said I was expected to get A’s, and they weren’t going to pay me for something I should be doing anyway. Amen, Eric. It doesn’t work. Instead, we have to somehow prove to them that an education will pay off like the media stars they so idolize, who got where they are by being one in a million contenders

I once tried to extoll the future payoff of a good education to one of my students. I couldn’t argue with his response: “I don’t want to go to school all those years and make your crappy salary”. he said.

1 Comment so far

  1. Corinne (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 9:12 am

    Right on–couldn’t have said it better!

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