“I got paid today!” my daughter announced as she bounced into the house after school.
Completely confused, I asked for some clarification. “Who paid you? For what? Are we talking about real money?”
“No,” she laughed, “it’s not real money! Why would a teacher give me real money?”
“Well,” I answered, still lost in her conversation, “why would a teacher pay you? You are not working. That’s when you get paid, for work.”
“Yes,” she agreed happily. “That’s what our teacher said. We don’t work now, because we are in class. That’s our job. So he pays us.” With that, she scampered off and out of my office. Faced with deadlines, I returned my focus to my work, thinking about how things have to be done, before I could “get paid”.
A couple of days later, we visited her sixth grade classroom. She rummaged about in her desk, and came up with some Monopoly-like money. “Here’s my money!” she declared, all smiles. The teacher nodded in agreement. Only my husband and I were lost in this conversation, but the teacher noticed the looks on our faces, and quickly jumped in.
“I use a money system as a way to reward kids for doing their job,” he said. “I’ve shared with the kids that they are not normally able to work yet, except for chorse and other small jobs around the house.
“I think their only job right now is to be the best student they can be. Every morning they come to school, I pay them $1 of “H. Bucks”. If they complete a homework assignment, they get paid. If they stay on task and raise their hands in class, they get paid.”
It was all starting to make sense now, our daughter’s comments about how she “gets paid for just showing up and paying attention.”
He also takes money away, however–and not for bad behavior, as we have utilized as parents. His is much more down-to-earth: he charges them “rent” on their seat–$20 a month. “As long as they come to class and participate, they will always have enough to pay their rent,” he assured us. “Any money they make outside of that is for them to keep, to buy things in my store.”
He said he has done this for several years now, and that he’s very pleased with the results. “So far, this has been going very well this year,” he said. “All kids have earned enough money to pay off rent for the first month.”
Our daughter loves it. She talks about the system frequently, how she has earned “H. Bucks” and how she has already spent a few as well. She has started to pay more attention to how much things cost when we are at a store, and thinks about her “real money” even more carefully. She even compares how much something might cost in “H. Bucks” to what it costs in “real money.”
The idea of being rewarded with some sort of a bonus for doing something right is not new to the sixth graders. During major tests, they often earn stamps every time they are caught doing something right, like concentrating hard and clearly giving their best efforts. They are then allowed to exchange the stamps for a treat or a trinket the school has organized, usually with parental help and input. This has worked well, encouraging kids to work hard.
He spelled everything out clearly in the parent handbook he distributed: “If you have any questions about how this system works, or if your child is having problems down the road paying rent, I’ll work with them.”
“I can always work things out with them in order to pay off what they owe,” he told us, as our family gathered our information and prepared to leave the open house.
“But it’s not that hard to earn the rent,” our daughter interjected.
“It’s just doing what you are supposed to do.”