Fun has never been my forte. There are a lot of things that people do of which I’ve never quite seen the value. All of the diversions of the modern world including things like video games, facebook, and online poker are pretty much lost on me. That’s not because I’m old because the same is true of things kids did for fun when I was young like draw on cave walls.
Don’t get me wrong. There are things I enjoy. I enjoy my family. I enjoy a good book. And I enjoy it when I see kids being successful.
Ever since I started teaching in Montpelier in 1999, one thing that the school has done every year is talk about a Christmas party for the high school kids. There have been a variety of things that have been done such as going bowling, going to a movie, and playing volleyball.
I’ve never really been on board with these Christmas celebrations. We’ve got a limited number of days to spend with these kids and it seems a bit silly to take one of those days away from their education. There are arguments for it and if I weren’t quite so much of a killjoy I think there is a distinct possibility I would agree.
Regardless, the teachers did convince me that we should have a celebration. We agreed that the day before Christmas break all of our kids will have the option of going to Jamestown and taking in a movie.
One of the things I really struggle with is that we do have some kids that have not been able to experience a lot of success in the classroom this year. A few of our students are failing classes. My initial reaction is that if a student is failing, we should most certainly have them stay back from the movie and get school work done.
Another thing I struggle with, though, is that the reason kids struggle in classes is not usually because we haven’t given them opportunity to be successful. Rather, the reason is usually because for whatever reason these students simply aren’t motivated to achieve the goals which we set in front of them. Students that are successful are successful regardless of the incentives we offer them. It stands to reason, then, that if we go the other way and punish them for doing poorly our results will be limited. I don’t see having them stay back from the movie as a punishment because it is an opportunity for potential success.
Student success is reward enough for doing well and in fact it is a far better reward than any extrinsic motivators we might give like movies or lack thereof. Somewhere in our culture we need to figure out how to teach kids that this is true because a lot of them simply do not understand.
I do think a greater gift than a movie that we can give kids for Christmas is an opportunity for success. On the day before Christmas break, all kids will have the option of going to a movie. They will also have the option of staying back at the school with me and seeing what we can do about being successful in their classes. If parents think their child shouldn’t go (for academic reasons or otherwise), they should contact me and let me know they don’t want their kids going. I’m not sure, yet, what movie we will be seeing. As soon as I do know, I will send a message to the list-serv.
Also, every week between now and then if a student is failing a class, I will talk to them about this very thing giving them the option of staying at the school and working on their grades rather than going to a movie. I know which option I would take were I in their place, but, as I said, fun is not my forte.