My Teaching Journey

through the intersection of math and middle school

Category Archives: Behavior

The Unforeseen Monster

We may have a gambling problem at school.

Let me explain. My school has a great new principal, and one of the things she encouraged early in the year were revisions to our positive behavior system. We resurrected the PBIS committee (we say “P-B-I-S” because “peebis” makes everyone feel awkward). I’m one of the co-facilitators.

The faculty that volunteered to be a part of the committee are awesome, dedicated, hardworking teachers. They had some amazing ideas. After many weeks, we settled on a pseudo-real world model where teachers pay students weekly with our school currency (the Pawbuck) based on the student’s individual behavior. Each student starts at a pay rate of 5 Pawbucks in each period and can lose them for a variety of infractions (being tardy or absent, not following class rules, etc). Students can earn up to 35 Pawbucks each week since they have 7 classes.

We had Pawbucks, but they were photocopied on different colored paper by grade level and looked, to be polite, lame. So, we enlisted a teacher who is a former graphic designer to create new Pawbucks for the school. We decided to have them printed as business cards so they are sturdier can can be reused; the school ordered 30,000 of them. (On a side note, I was very impressed with the customer service at Vistaprint when I called to order them).

Also, the only place the students could use the old Pawbucks was in the school store, which had offerings that few students considered spectacular. The PBIS committee created a list of incentives that students would like based on student surveys, thus making the Pawbucks desirable. The incentives include Sunshine breaks, no uniform days, and eat anywhere in the cafeteria days, among others.

Last Monday was the first payday. In class today, I overheard one student talking about how they had bet another student that the University of Alabama would win the BCS Championship game. The other students was apparently a fan of Louisiana State, so they took the bet. Student 2 lost all of his Pawbucks to Student 1. Our school currency is so valuable now that it is being used to gamble! The part of the tale that makes it even better is that Student 1 has a difficult time earning Pawbucks in class. He earned 3 or 4 of a possible 10 from me last week (I have him for two periods).  Ah, middle schoolers! How I never tire of working with you!

We wanted to implement a system that is analogous to the real world. We didn’t think about what some adults do with their money once they earn it. Oh well. Baby steps, right?

Update:
I found out more information about the unforeseen monster. Some seventh grade students were caught in the bathroom playing craps with their Pawbucks; they may have also been playing during a school assembly. In eighth grade, students are bartering with their Pawbucks. One student sold a pair of headphones to another student in exchange for Pawbucks; another student sold a watch.

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