Earning Points

by stryson

We have a great behavior management system at my school, in which the students need to earn points for each class. Most hour-long classes are worth 10 points, though some non-core classes (such as computers or gym) might be worth 6 or 8. One earns one’s points by completing & handing in homework, participating appropriately in class, and exhibiting good behavior.

As you can imagine, though, particularly in a setting where the students have language challenges, the kids can sometimes lose their grip on why they are or are not earning their points.

Just before the holiday break, I had a sixth grader that was really struggling in my class. She was not consistently completing her homework, and she was often having meltdowns in my class. To boot, she was taking 20-25 minute long bathroom breaks almost daily. Thus, she was not earning her points in my class on most days. One day, she completely lost it on me. She stood up, stomped her foot, looked me squarely in the eye, and bellowed, “I really want to succeed in your class, but I can’t if you keep taking my points!”

I have to laugh, because the other option is to descend into a rumination on entitlement.

In that same class, I had a day in which a young man did not earn his points because he did not hand in his homework. He looked at me with complete astonishment when I signed his points at the end of that period.

“Why do I lose points??? My birthday was two weeks ago!”

At this, I simply stared. Of course, it didn’t help when, from across the room, his classmate chimes in, instructing me:

“Go on, just laugh about it. You know you want to!”

It’s a precarious line, trying to maintain respect and order while taking into consideration the fragility of some of my students. It’s a good thing I can keep a sense of humor about it.

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