The Treasure Box is for Losers August 19, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
Tags: Education, Humor, Teaching, Third Grade, Treasure Box
I found the coolest stuff for my class Treasure Box at Target. When I told my friend, Christine, who’s also a teacher, she informed me, “The Treasure Box is for losers.” Ouch! I thought this was because Christine believes students should “be good for goodness’ sake” like in the song Santa Claus is Coming to Town. But, she put it even more bluntly, dare I say biblically – virtue is its own reward. That’s true, but…and it’s a BIG but, at least for me.
The reason for having a Treasure Box (or student store or whatever else teachers call it) is to reward those students who are “on task.” That’s teacher-talk for students who are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. We don’t have “good” students, but students who are “on task.” Unlike those students who are “off task.” We never say they are “bad.” Instead of saying that “B” word, we say the other “B” word – benched.
In keeping with this logic, a student’s reward for being “on task” is recess. Since I was never a particularly physically active child, the gift of recess doesn’t wet my whistle. I would have been happy to warm a bench reading a book. Of course, since I was always good, I mean on task, I can only speculate.
This year the morning recess at my school will be shortened from 25 to 15 minutes, so it’s basically a long bathroom break. Even kids who are benched are allowed to use the bathroom, so being able to go to recess is a baby carrot on a very short stick.
As I begin my fifth year of teaching as a fully credentialed and “highly qualified” teacher, I’m rethinking some things I’ve always done. Some of my class procedures were picked up from master teachers during student teaching and others from colleagues. Teachers do what works for them, and the Treasure Box has worked for me. It’s simple, If your card on the “How’s My Day Going?” chart is on green at the end of the day, you receive a sticker. (You can stay on green by not sticking a pencil in your neighbor’s ear, reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid inside your desk, when you’re supposed to be listening, or annoying me or anything else that moves within a 20-foot radius).
I put the stickers in the pockets of the chart at the end of the day, as handing them out takes too much time. (I feel like I’m running behind, the minute I set foot in the classroom.) Ten stickers earns you a trip to the Treasure Box, but for the second trip, I up the ante to 15 stickers. Last year I had such a great group of students, I increased the cost of admission to 20 stickers. I used the excuse that the rising cost of gas made it more expensive for me to drive to the 99 Cent store.
I spend maybe $60 on “treasures” each year, and also receive donations from parents and friends. Though I draw the line at 99 cents an item, I don’t have anything cheesy in my Treasure Box. Students can pick from books, workbooks, journals, maps, rubber dinosaurs, the occasional Hot Wheels car, and come Halloween, flocked tarantulas and rubber bats and rats. I even make special trips to Burmincos in Monrovia to pick out way cool rocks. (Who would have thought the price of rocks would double in the last year?)
Yeah, I offer other incentives too – special privileges, time with me (that would keep my husband on task), and the chance to sit at my messy desk. But the hot ticket item, when you’re 8 or 9 years old, is usually something aka stuff. Maybe it’s the hunter-gatherer in all of us. I went to a week-long training several years ago, where the presenter told participants that for each day we returned from lunch on time, we would receive a ticket. The ticket went toward a drawing at the end of the week, so we had a chance to win – stuff. And what were these coveted prizes? The package of cheetah print bulletin board borders, perfect for that second-grade “Camouflage” unit, had teachers salivating. There we were – professionals, myself included -checking our cellphones at lunch to make sure we wouldn’t be late. All this for the chance to win those borders, or maybe, just maybe, a $5 gift certificate for the local educational supply store. Teachers, you gotta love ‘em.
My “Teacher’s Helper” does all the paperwork for the Treasure Box. They stand there with a clipboard looking very official, while those who’ve earned a trip paw through the merchandise. The Teacher’s Helper then records the date, the student’s name, and the item they chose. Sometimes I handpick items for particular students, as I know what they like or need. I’m proud to say that no item has ever been stolen. This is serious business. I only wish I could put the Teacher’s Helper in charge of ALL my paperwork, which is why I have a messy desk in the first place. I thought about eliminating the Treasure Box this year and trying out this radical concept of virtue being its own reward. But I have to admit, I’m skeptical. Besides, I’ve still got some inventory to move from last year. Yeah, I’m a loser, baby, but the Treasure Box works for me.