Rewards | Mark’s Remarks

When we were in school, teachers had expectations.  They had expectations we would listen and do as we were told. They expected us to learn to spell, learn our math facts, and continue to practice so we retained things. We were sometimes taught the same thing several years in a row because kids need that.

These days, if you talk to educational experts (apparently not the teachers, by the way), you will hear that research has proven most of the old ways didn’t work.  Everything is data driven. Even though today’s research tells us we need to hold kids accountable, we really don’t. We are supposed to repeat things and give students several chances to do something. We aren’t supposed to expect that kids will practice on their own or work on anything of value at home. Many times, we are expected to do things that are practically impossible.  Achieve the impossible, because your job depends on it.

Furthermore, especially if you teach in a small town, you deal with who knows who and who lives where. You deal with the “in crowd” and how rules don’t apply to everyone. You deal with comments made by the “right” people and you deal with decisions being made based on someone taking a small “snapshot” of the job you are doing or the way you come across on a certain day. Indeed, entire careers have been affected by someone making a few comments to the right people.

Yes, I get in a big snit sometimes about my profession. After a while, you just get tired and worn down dealing with certain aspects of the job. I think one of our biggest issues in education is that education is being run by people who don’t know much about education.  You have people who have spent very little time, if any, in the classroom. Yet, they are in positions of power. Many of them don’t know what they are doing and are too proud or power driven to ask anyone for help. They forget how to treat people. Morale gets lower and lower. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem anyone gives a hoot.

It’s hard to make a difference. If you complain or try to take a stand, you are on the radar and the blacklist. You start to feel devalued and start to feel like you just aren’t a very good teacher.

Just when I think I’m in a total funk, I walk into my classroom. I see eager faces and I see kiddos who depend on me. I hear “good mornings” and “I saw you getting out of your car!” I get apples, little sketches on notebook paper and funny notes with unusual spelling. I get kids telling me “Have a nice lunch!” I get to see kids who still get excited about things. I get to see kids who learn something and then I realize it; I am the one who taught them that.  Rewards!

I feel as though I worked my poor little students so hard this week. We covered the timeline from the early 1400s on the past demise of the Aztec Empire.  We covered point of view, parts of speech, sentence patterns and a huge amount of proofreading and rewriting. We discussed current events and read stories, making sure we paid close attention to vocabulary and the plot, setting, theme and genre.  Whew.

When I was in school, our teacher let us play board games every other Friday for about the last 30 minutes or so of school.   It was something we worked toward and looked forward to.

I have board games in my classroom for rainy day recess, but they aren’t used anymore.  Recess is different when you are in middle school and there is never time for board games.

On Friday morning, I announced we would be able to play board games if we got all of our work completed. The class erupted in applause. They worked hard. They were motivated. They earned their 20 minutes and then some.

I was really amazed, quite frankly. In this day and age of bells and whistles, it amazes me that kids get a kick out of playing board games. Heck, it amazes me that kids still know HOW to play board games.  They had a great time, and I had so many kids come up and thank me when we were finished. Rewards.

So when I am just about ready to give up, I can gain a little extra “oomph” from my students. Yes, kids are still grateful for things. Yes, little things still mean a lot to kids.  Sitting down and teaching kids to play checkers or Yahtzee can change your whole outlook.  You can remember why you are here and what your purpose is.  You can remember why you decided to become a teacher.


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Andrea F.D. Saathoff

Andrea is a graduate of Gibault High School and the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the University of Missouri Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville College of Education. She lives in Columbia with her husband and their twin toddler sons. When she isn't cheering on St. Louis Cardinals baseball or riding the emotional roller coaster of Mizzou Tigers football, she enjoys attending and participating in the many family events the county has to offer. email:
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