My daughter and I recently participated in a 5K fundraiser at her school. I was worried that I might need a cattle prod to coax her to the finish line, so I was very proud of her for achieving consistent forward motion at a reasonable pace. At the finish line, Kate's best friend (who, at barely 6, ran every step of the race!) netted a ribbon, a medal, and a trophy. Kate, meanwhile, had nothing but the pride of accomplishment. This was not nearly enough, I discovered, as she burst into pitiful tears. When I told her she'd done a good job, she sobbed, "No, I didn't! If I didn't get anything, I didn't do a good job!"
Many parents I know bemoan the everyone-gets-a-trophy school of childrearing that seems so prevalent these days. I hate it, too. But the truth is -- I always liked my gold stars and worked hard to earn them. I do get it.
Carmela's marvelous post on writing buddies also made mention of gold stars. As writers, most of us must work hard at devising self-motivation strategies to get through the long and lonely slogging of getting and revising and re-revising a draft. As teachers, we also expend endless energy on developing strategies to motivate our students to be interested, engaged, and -- dare we hope? -- enthusiastic. My college-age students STILL find an occasional chocolate reward to be excellent incentive.
To this end, our local library has a summer reading incentive program, and this is the first year my daughter has been old enough to participate. Read a certain number of minutes, visit the library enough times, and you get a prize, or two, or three. I have to confess to mixed feelings about this. Shouldn't we want to read for the sheer pleasure of the experience? On the other hand... perhaps encouraging reading will result in a love that grows irrespective of the prize but might never have developed without it.
How do you teachers feel about these types of rewards? Do they seem to work over the long term?
Ironically, I find that the reward I most love to give myself at the end of a long workday (besides a nice, tall margarita) is some time in bed with a good book. Off to pour myself a margarita right now... And tonight I am reading Uma Krishnaswami's latest after our fab library trip today -- it is so, so good!