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Teachers: Please Stop Doing These 2 Things

By December 13, 2015Blog, Ignite! At School

We’re not “teacher bashers.”

We understand only too well the challenges of the classroom: overcrowding, underfunding, a wide spectrum of student learning styles…

We love teachers. Every year, we even give a free “Teacher’s Week” at our gym as a “thank you” to those entrusted with the futures of our kids.

Here are two habits used by some teachers that we’d like to stop. Most don’t realize the long-term implications of each (yet) and that’s okay; it’s our job to teach healthy habits outside the classroom, not theirs.

  1. Using exercise as a punishment.

When kids get a “bad taste for exercise” in school, it’s usually not because they got beaned in dodgeball. It’s usually because exercise is used as punishment for bad behavior.

“If you don’t listen, you owe me 10 burpees.”

“Stop talking or do pushups. Your choice.”

Coaches fall into the same trap sometimes. When a student is talking when they should be listening, that’s frustrating. But teaching the student that exercise is punishment for bad behavior will stick with them forever. Think of the way most adults approach exercise:

“Ugh, I have to do this because I need to lose weight.”

“If I eat this brownie, I’ll have to run an extra mile tomorrow.”

Adults PUNISH their “bad” behavior with exercise. They don’t pursue exercise for enjoyment. We’re trying hard to reverse this plight, but (as you know) habits start early.

Use “dance breaks,” “exercise breaks” or play as rewards for good behavior; not as punishment for misbehavior.         

        2. Using food as a reward.

Food is awesome. We love food. But we don’t love the emotional connections people form with eating.

Logically, people know how much to eat, and when to stop eating. Logically, we KNOW which foods are unhealthy. That’s not the problem. The PROBLEM with most adults (and, increasingly, with kids) is that we form emotional attachments to eating that are unhealthy.

“I need this sugar to get pumped up for the game.”

“If I try hard at math, I’ll get a treat.”

“I’ll eat this brownie tonight and just skip breakfast tomorrow.”

As you know, emotion trumps logic every time. And if we reinforce emotional connections to food in the classroom, kids will attach effort to “treats” as rewards.

Don’t think this is a real problem? Look up “Teacher Candy Boards” on Pinterest or Google.

You don’t need to teach kids about “grit.” You don’t have to get philosophical and teach them that effort is its own reward. You just have to stop throwing them candy when they get an answer right. Please, please stop bringing cupcakes “if the class is good.”

We won’t mention the “pizza days,” “hot dog fundraisers” and “treat tables” at events. Not yet.

For now:

Record “bright spots” on a chalkboard. Encourage collaborative competition. Give high fives. Praise effort, not outcome.

We wish we didn’t have to ask. And most teachers will read this and think, “That doesn’t apply to me.” That’s good. But if this post makes you defensive, or want to roll your eyes at “that parent who thinks they know it all,” I can live with it. If you’re unsure, ask yourself, “What’s the best legacy I can leave with these kids?”

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