Give 100 Percent?

28 Jul

Working at a daycare has shown me many things and given me much insight into how children behave, and more specifically, how they learn.  The kids that I work with are so incredibly eager to learn, it almost makes me jealous.  They want to know everything, and they seem to retain anything they find interesting.  When i tell them stories, or work on the different topics that we are learning about, they have an ambition to learn just because it interests them.

It’s amazing.

In no other teaching environment, and i have been in with all grades, have I witnessed children who have such a drive to learn.  They want to do math just because they think it’s amazing that I can show them how to do it! I know it is probably a lot different being in a daycare rather than a school, but there is still a much different attitude towards what they are learning.

Then one day I noticed a cancer.

It spread so quickly through the children that I barely noticed the change.  The change took a week to get rid of though.

I gave my students a word search to work on, just as a task to keep them focused for twenty minutes, and to go through some Ancient Egyptian vocabulary with them.  They were so excited each time they found a word.  They wanted to finish the task and find all the words because until they found it, I wouldn’t tell them what it meant.  They were racing, and excited, and wanted to learn all the new words.

Then I went on my break.

I came back, and the person who took over for me started marking the word searches.  100% ‘s filled the pages and stickers and the kids all came running to me to tell me they had all got 100%.  No more cheering for their actual accomplishments, just excitement for the mark that was written at the top of the page.  When I asked if they wanted to learn all the words, they simply said they were done because it already got marked.

These are 5-8 year olds.

I was incredibly disheartened.  If they didn’t get a sticker and 100% they didn’t want to do it.  They lost their intrinsic want to do the activity.  For a week I had to decline their pleads to mark their work.  Now they are finally back to wanting to learn for their own reasons.

It’s sad that a race for marks can start so young.


234 Responses to “Give 100 Percent?”

  1. cpbwsk July 29, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    Cool post Samantha. I like your reflection on the changes in these children once they received the grade. It made me think about the time-serve model where things are only relevant for a minute amount of time and, as you described, it is almost impossible to bring someone back to something once it has been “completed”. Thanks for sharing!

    I just wrote something similar but less concrete. You can check it out if you want.

  2. Erin July 31, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    That is a really sad story. I see the same things happen to my high school students as soon as the first report card comes out- forget the subject, the idea, the creativity. From then on, it’s all about the number.

  3. New Tech Network August 1, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Very well said! When we start so young squishing intrinsic satisfaction, no reason to wonder why sometimes older students are hard to motivate!

  4. Dean Shareski August 1, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    I’m so looking forward to seeing you take the reigns of a classroom and apply these great lessons you’re learning and the joy you will bring to student learning. You’ll rock.

  5. keelygriffiths August 1, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    I am so sorry that happened to you!
    And even sorrier for your students.
    I am not surprised though that something that was done within minutes took a week to undo – you are lucky it didn’t take longer. At this age kids still don’t get that learning should be done for themselves rather than for whatever everyone-else says or does about it. Every teacher should aim for this ideal – every child working because they want to, because it makes them feel good about themselves, not because the teacher says so or their parents tell them! I agree with Erin – so many times it becomes about the number on a report or test, but that generally comes from the parent and a system that compares marks between children, not the children themselves. Most of the time a smile and a verbal well done is all the individual student is looking for – recognition of the hard work they have put it WITHOUT judgement!

  6. Faldrian August 1, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Interesting experience you describe. It takes a while to learn that you yourself benefit from learning… maybe in school or your job – or (what I think is very important) in the amount of knowledge you have at your disposal when talking to people. 🙂

    Btw. where is your flattr-button? 😉

  7. JulieCunningham August 1, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    Early race for marks, and a difficult time getting them off that path later in life as well. As an educator, I’m really struggling these days with what I believe and what I am subjecting my own children to on a daily basis during the school year. I want them to opt out of standardized testing altogether….. but I hard my local school if I exercise my right to pull them from testing. I want them to be passion driven in their learning… but I was still working in the traditional system until recently. I want them to love learning… and yet I allow them to be in classrooms where they come home with half a dead tree in worksheets each week.

  8. Joe Bower August 1, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    This story exemplifies what the research has been saying about the cancerous effects of both rewards and punishment. Stories like yours need to be shared with everyone. Thank you for sharing this!


  9. student August 2, 2011 at 4:52 am #

    you shouldnt discount the importance of material rewards like stickers. stickers are inanimate objects. they are tools to be used, they’re not good or bad. when you say that its sad that the kids have found a new source of motivation in the stickers instead of intrinsic mental motivation, you’re making a subjective judgement. you’re making a subjective judgement on the thoughts of the kids.

    your day care experience is sad only because you value intrinsic motivation (ie. learning for the sake of learning). but from the perspective of the kids, their change in motivation is not sad or happy; its just a new experience.

    you dont need to manipulate kids into enjoying learning for the sake of learning. you should explain the existence of learning for the sake of learning and learning for rewards. you should explain this because they will face both types of feelings in the real world.

  10. pgiuliav August 2, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    This post is really good and true. I can say for myself. While studying in Brazil, where we do not have GPA’s and the grades don’t matter as much as the quality of your work and people’s skill. I was really into every task I had to do. However, once I moved to CA and had everyone around me freaking out about grades, it started to affect me as well. I started to think that if I couldn’t get an A as the other students I was less than them.
    Thanks for sharing this important story!

  11. Paul Salomon August 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    Really great post. Just found your blog from someone on twitter. Sounds like you and I are very like-minded. I’m writing a post now about having to grade some students over last weekend. I teach at a school without grades, and I had some major misgivings. I’ll follow you on twitter and retweet. Thanks again!

  12. Mike August 4, 2011 at 12:56 am #

    I just finished up a course towards becoming a teacher. During the whole course, the teacher made a point to never gave a grade out to anyone. We got feedback and notes, but never a grade or number. This was the first time I had been in a class like this and it was a huge stress for some of the students. It was frustrating because we never felt like we knew where we stood in the class. Even now, two weeks after the class finished, we still don’t have grades. We all are going to get A’s (everyone put in the work, time, effort, and learning required) but we it still would be nice to know how I did.

  13. Johnson August 6, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    too long; didn’t read. no wonder this country is going down the pan

  14. Zeaun Zarrieff (@zupreme) August 6, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    What a thought provoking story. It will take some time and reflection to really grasp what it means and how, as adults, we can regain make sure that we retain (for those of us who still have it) that since of wonder at learning new things, or regain (for those who have lost it entirely) that perspective.

    Again, great post.

  15. kfogel August 6, 2011 at 12:23 am #

    Suggestion: read “Punished by Rewards” by Alfie Kohn. There is a whole field of research about the phenomenon you observed, with many similar examples and lots of analysis. Reading that book changed the way I think about interacting with students and even just with people in general.


  16. Arsalan August 6, 2011 at 12:23 am #

    Great post. Stumbled upon it by clicking on friend’s FB status. Very thought-provoking. Here are some thoughts of mine…

    Can you really blame any of these innocent little kids, to be honest? Or for that matter, can you blame any other human being who has been a part of virtually any education system in the world, for wanting to get that ‘A?’ After all, it is deeply ingrained and inculcated within us that an ‘A’ is what will eventually lead the child down the path of ‘success’ and will allow him/her to attend a prestigious college/university and go on to do big things in whatever profession they choose. Society has evolved over the centuries on the platform of ‘survival of the fittest.’ We continue to value, cherish and reward those with high scores, marks and grades. We use these arbitrary scores and grades to rank individuals and place them in an imaginary totem pole. We have stratified ourselves by perpetuating these ills in society and awarding less value to innovation and creativity. It comes as no surprise to me that toddlers are being conditioned to think/act this way from such an early age.

  17. Carol August 6, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    Welcome to my world! I’m a public school teacher, and it’s all about the annual standardized tests. Learning? What’s that and who cares! Ho hum. I come home and read and educate myself, it’s very rewarding learning new things.

  18. Kelleigh August 6, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. Like Carol, I have seen things from the public school classroom. The system of “I will only do this for a reward” starts early and is so ingrained by the time kids reach high school.

    I actually had a class full of honors students revolt when I did away with grades and went to authentic assessment by myself and peers. (Per school/district policy, I was going to issue grades at mid- and end-term, but only by conferencing with the student and getting input on their perceived performance. Yikes! They actually wanted, no *needed* grades for their own satisfaction. So….I stuck with grades.:(

  19. Tim Nacnu August 6, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    Many educators don’t get it. I the real world we get rated with everything we do. The waitresses gets tips, business owner get return business, the employee get promotion, pay increase… Give the kids grades…stickers…

  20. Andrew August 6, 2011 at 2:46 am #

    I believe New College in Florida, has caught on to this. I’ve heard from one of their alumni, that they don’t grade students using the traditional “points out of a hundred” that we’re all so used to, they only offer students written feedback on their performance…not necessarily assigning any particular grade on their effort.

    Personally, I know that I learn so much more when I’m trying to teach myself and actually have the hunger to learn, as opposed to “I need to pass this class to graduate, hurry up and give me my grade…”

  21. Kenneth Stein (@postjockey) August 6, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    Fundamentally, people are made to have notable achievements. If a person is deficient in having had notable achievements, they’ll show symptoms of depression. Regarding notable achievement, the ways one can have a NA can be socially positive or negative and it’s irrelevant to that part of the cognitive system that’s rewarded for the achievement. There is another aspect (moral) which involves for the most part distinct processes. Psychologists were surprised to find bullies have high self esteem, but only because it’s not known that ‘coercion’ is a notable achievement, as is acquisition (shopaholics) and a number of other activities that I’ve identified. One more thing, kids start having to pursue notable achievements beginning at around 12-13 years of age. If you have kids younger than that, please get them in the habit of pursuing notable achievements. And make sure teach them perseverance – otherwise kids will settle for a short term notable achievement – for example, starting to learn to play an instrument a child may express a desire to quit…..because getting rid of the instrument is a notable achievement….parents and teachers have to have the kids seeking out socially acceptable notable achievements….

  22. Jayaram August 6, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    Great insight into education. Thx for sharing.

  23. Lennart August 6, 2011 at 4:48 am #

    Just today had exactly the opposite experience with my boys. It always took an extra effort to share with them my fascination for learning for the sake of learning and discovering…but it so happened that I stumbled over the iPad app ” teach me first grade ” and now they wont stop reading, writing, math, spelling.. It is all fun now – because they get “coins” for their work and can purchase virtual fish … They love it. Kids love games – and if you see stickers and grades that way – or learn to appreciate them that way, they can actually help your motivation to go beyond your comfort zone…

    Thx for sharing your ideas!

  24. Rajitha August 6, 2011 at 5:10 am #

    At the end of every performance review the work that I have done the whole year is judged by my promotion and increment. Even though increment is not the only motivation but that’s a tangible yardstick. For the love of work I can’t be working as a manager at a petty salary. Would you? Though I agree partially with your argument that grades should not be the only thing. I suppose an interesting exercise to do again with the kids might be that give them a very boring assignment with grades.

  25. Ashutosh Tiwary August 6, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    Parents have a big role to play in this sad story. Sigh.

  26. Joaquin paolo August 6, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    Another simple observation about the motivations behind marks and standardized testing. Thanks for this insight!

  27. Phillip August 6, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Good one. In the book “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintainance” the author describes the effect of withholding grades in his university class for a semester. If I remember correctly, students that studies because of interest of the subject florished, while those who were studying to get a job started leaving university and looking at other careers.

  28. Reader August 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    What is exciting though is that this was reversible. I am surprised that so many people immediately call this “sad”; I read this as a success story – that after a week the kids were back to enjoying the learning itself, and not just a placeholder reward. And great comment by “student” on August 2, 2011 at 4:52 am

  29. Tadashi Ushiroda August 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    Hi, loved this post. It’s sad to see that so much of school is focused on achieving marks. On a side note, it is really hard to read the text on your page. I think its a combination of your font choice and the background.

  30. Matthew Parker August 6, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    That is sad. Well, its teachers like you who we should be thankful for. I hope you spread your initiatives beyond the classroom, and show other teachers and parents the value of learning without marks. Children need to understand learning isn’t about achieving high marks, but its about growing intellectually and experiencing new concepts.

    You should check out my blog sometime:

  31. annmariastat (@annmariastat) August 6, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    Mike – you took the course. Don’t you know how you did without the teacher telling you?

  32. Adam 3.0 August 6, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    Really liked your post Samantha – it’s too bad learning becomes equated with a competitive bent on grades. I seriously believe the unlearning of the grade system happens when the very very few find themselves in year five of a phd program.

  33. The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife August 6, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

    Interesting! I don’t think it was until college that I began to learn for the sake of learning, and not for the grade or approval of it all.

  34. Day I Started Reading August 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    I love this post. Definitely deserves to be on Freshly Pressed. I remember how I had a teacher in grade 4 who would tell us things like “we’ll only watch a movie if everyone passes the spelling test tomorrow” So what did we eventually start doing? We started cheating, or as we would like to call it, giving answers behind the teacher’s back so that we could watch a movie. Over time, this became a habit for us, for the teacher had no idea that we were cheating and was so happy with our class. She even tells the other teachers about how well we pay attention in class. I was one of the few that gave out the test answer, and I didn’t have any choice because I didn’t want to be hated, but this is what giving rewards can do to a class of nine-year-olds.

  35. Elly August 6, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    Wow, that’s really amazing – and it makes sense. We’re trained at such a young age that grades justify our worth and nothing is inherently worth doing unless there’s some sort of validation at the end. One of my college professors almost understood this – she told us to do assignments because we were interested in the subject matter and to not just complete them for a grade. On the flip side, if we didn’t do everything assignment, you were likely to fail the class. 🙂

  36. sanityisknocking August 6, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    Thanks for sharing such an important story. I have really taken this to heart as an educator!

  37. Evie August 6, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    Incredible story, sad but true.
    hey. you have a great personality. brilliant!

  38. Jennifer Roberts August 6, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    I hope you were able to demonstrate for the coworker who gave the stickers and 100%s how you were using the word search to teach vocabulary.

    It always makes me sad to hear how someone’s teaching can be so quickly undone by one who does not understand how children truly learn.

    Kudos to you!

  39. traveliterature August 6, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    You illustrated well in your story how adults can influence children’s motivation while trying to ‘help’. This also happens in the adult world and we impose these on children. I love your blog as we share a common interest. Thank you for your story.

  40. Jackie Paulson Author August 6, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    I am proud of you, and it takes great skills to master what you are doing to teach. I am sorry that happened to you at all. Your story is inspiring to 41 people here, so keep up the great work!

  41. Mulyadi Tenjo August 6, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    i like your post samantha,

  42. Mulyadi Tenjo August 6, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    posting ….the best

  43. J Roycroft August 6, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    Great post. I find it unsettling, but not surprising to know that someone with lesser teaching skills and concern for education corrupted your class. Congrats on FP.

  44. sugartaxi August 6, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    Kewl !!!!

  45. Brock Peters August 6, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    That is a microcosm of what is inherently wrong with our reward based school system. Guess things haven’t changed since I was in elementary. I immigrated to Canada in ’89 and I was amazed to see the kinds of things that motivated Canadian kids to get good grades in: coloured pencils/pens, happy face stickers, candy canes, chocolates. Even then as a 7 year old I thought it was kind of absurd.

    I remember learning algebra basics the year before we immigrated and our teacher would emphasize how fortunate it was for us children, to learn algebra and geometry, topics that adults struggled to discover in ancient Greece and Babylon for the advancement of mankind. We didn’t have to fight to obtain that knowledge for ourselves. It was just there, available for us. That’s the sort of thing that motivated us: being able to see further by standing on the shoulders of giants.

    Needless to say after living a while in Canada that sort of motivation, regretfully, also died in me and I became 100%/A+ chaser like the rest of the other kids.

  46. Marty Jones August 6, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    Great article Samantha. I remember seeing a TED talk by Dan Ariely on how money and awards are not actually a great motivator, and how we should move towards intrinsic motivation in the workplace, and it’s something I’ve been right about on and off on my blog.
    Good stuff, keep it up.

  47. mister anchovy August 6, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    I’m not surprised at what you witnessed at all. We often measure the wrong thing on many fronts.

  48. Toby August 6, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    Interesting. Have you seen the website They let kids raise money for academic goals. I bet most goals are grade related though.

  49. dontforgettoknitawesome August 6, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    I totally identify with that problem. The real tragedy (at least I feel like this is true) is that when you get to college, it’s all about the marks, and not about the learning. I can’t take dozens of classes that interest me because I have to get good grades in yet another English 101 class or what have you. It’s incredibly unmotivating, a cancer as you said, and its making school that much worse for me. I dropped out of high school and went to college early because even my small school (less than 1000 people k-12th) it was all about grades and something about making friends with your teachers and hanging out after school. Horrible, then I left, and college was all about grades again. I wish I had encountered more teachers with your particular motivations. I really do.

  50. ryanallenkelly August 6, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    The biggest thing your story reveals is America’s conflict with instant gratification. I love how you put everything together, great work!

  51. confessionsfromthemat August 6, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    Assessment can so easily destroy an inherent love of learning. So why the focus on testing in American schools?

    Thanks for sharing this blog.

  52. Desi Valentine August 6, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    It doesn’t take long for that cancer to spread, does it? I run a private dayhome and have experienced exactly that when my bigger kids get home from academic-focused playschool. Kudos to you for getting it under control and well into intermission. You must have an incredible connection with those kids.

  53. Karen August 6, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Out with grading – In with learning. Good for you, Samantha. We need more teachers like you.

  54. randomyriad August 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    So many teachers want to control children’s enthusiasm for exploration. Keep it safe and clean. Giving marks is a great way to drag internal motivation out of natural learners. I am glad to see that other teachers get this. We want children who will learn no matter what someone else thinks about their efforts to understand the world.

  55. Matthew August 6, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    Personally, I think the best reason to learn should be for the sake of leaning. If you learn, or do anything for that matter, for rewards then what happens when the rewards leave? The learning stops as well. Good post 🙂

  56. ecodolphin August 6, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    I don’t like the grading system at all on any level, just the fear of doing badly made me not to want to try anything in school. There just has to be a better way to evaluate education!

  57. Nick Huber August 6, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    Hi Samantha,

    Cool post! There’s an interesting discussion on Quora related to this:

    Do you want to weigh in on this question — it seems like all you’d need to do would be to lift your post


    Disclosure: I work for Quora. Just thought you might be interested.

  58. goteamscotch August 6, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

    This post is heavy! These kids don’t know it, but they just may be battling this feeling for the rest of their school lives and beyond. The striking difference between perceived excellence and personal internal excellence can be the difference between contentedness and anxiety. These kids, when faced with the flashy appeal of 100%’s and the sensation of an external world saying “you did it!” must either accept that and in turn be finished with that learning (prematurely!) or must deny this sense of ‘you are finished’ and continue down the road of leaning because what is learned is far more satisfying than the recognition of said learning.

    Thanks for this post!

  59. DeckDiva August 6, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your observations. It seems to me that the reward itself was not responsible for replacing the intrinsic love of learning, but the fact that the highest reward (100%) was given to EVERYONE! I remember my daughter, when she was in 1st grade, telling me she didn’t like always getting “excellent” on her papers because it didn’t allow her the possibility for improvement. The frustration came when she asked her teacher for more challenging work and was told that all students had to do the same thing or it would diminish the self-esteem of the others. She became bored with school, but still had the desire to learn. We chose to homeschool thereafter.
    Great teachers like you are rare. Keep up the good work! Your influence can last someone a lifetime!

  60. meadowmeadow August 6, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    I agree!

  61. Texasjune August 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    For every child you teach, our society benefits. We need more Samantha’s allowed in every classroom. One would think that regulations could be modified when proven success manages to emerge.

  62. John August 6, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    You can see from this exmaple that we are programmed at young age on scores and marks. While there are necessity of setting the mark, but in the race for that, the learning willingness and enthusiasm is lost.

    Well, same thing with money for adults – money is really some kind of score how much you have contributed (not perfect but will do) to society in getting their wants and needs. However, learning stops there even for adults, they are just there for the money (a lot of people are), once they have the money, they don’t care about getting better and learning more.

    Just look at the example in Washington fighting over the debt deal, no one wants to learn anything they just want to keep the money flowing that’s all.

  63. friendslikeyou August 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    Great post. So well written.

  64. silentsarcasm August 6, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    I feel like it’s human nature to work for approval, and that as soon people find it they move on to the next thing.

  65. Darren August 6, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    Outstanding post. Excited for the day these insights are implemented worldwide. So much to learn about learning. 🙂

  66. kizzyinchainz August 7, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    Yes it is sad but the truth about the current education system is that marks are more important than actually learning! No one cares if you remember what was on the exam as long as you pass it. A lot of children just study for the test and just forgot everything they learned. They are taught too the test instead of taught to learn and remember.

  67. zoe August 7, 2011 at 1:07 am #

    Outstanding post. So much to learn about learning

  68. averagealbertan August 7, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    While it is very sad that young children are losing their desire to learn for the sake of learning because of a race for the highest mark, there is a small light at the end of it all. That being that they were proud of their grade. They recognized the fact that doing well, regardless of whether you enjoy doing something or not, is important. Whether they should learn that at their age, I don’t know. But let’s face it, eventually, the kids will have to learn the lesson that while learning for the sake of learning is great, that your final result is what is going to get you through life. No one hires a man who does not care about his mark. I am relatively “young,” and I know for a fact that if I did my work for the sake of working and didn’t attempt to do the best job ever, my boss would fire me on the spot.

  69. Samantha August 7, 2011 at 2:09 am #

    Great post. People write about how rewards are important tools, and kids like them, etc.

    The point isn’t that you can’t give rewards at all, as I see it, but the main point is where the motivation is coming from.
    In the beginning, they were doing it just because they wanted to learn. They were excited, and curious.
    Once grades were introduced, they weren’t doing the puzzles to learn, they were doing it to please the teacher and to get something.

    Others speak of older students not being able to handle being without the grades, and seem to be saying how that “proves” they’re good for feedback and are “wanted”. I humbly disagree.
    It’s because this is how they’ve been trained, it’s what they know. You have to get good grades to make parents and teachers happy. You need to have someone else give you a score for your work to know how you did?
    What’s happened to the ability to self-evaluate? Why do you need someone else to tell you if you learned something well enough? Why do children need this?
    Are we teaching them not to trust themselves?


  70. Laura August 7, 2011 at 2:09 am #

    I really liked this post. Thank you.

  71. Bragging Jackass August 7, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    Not bragging but I give 110%.

  72. Ali August 7, 2011 at 2:17 am #

    I really liked the way you’ve portrayed the change in the kids. I think that this rat race for marks diminishes a student’s ability to see that the real value of learning is in knowing something new, something that they did not know before. Unfortunately, the credit or mark system has taken away the fun in learning. I come from India and the race for marks is so embedded in the attitudes of students that it becomes inherent in their attitudes all their life. Life becomes a set of things-to-lists and you need to finish ticking them all before everyone else does!sad indeed!

    Thanks for the post!

  73. Ryan Brockey August 7, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    I just finished a stint teaching Summer School in DC and I had a hard time getting the students to even care about the mark. Much less pursue any intrinsic desire to learn.

    I’d never thought about the effect of gold stars and Good Job!s on students that young. I’m going to share this with some of my teacher friends.

    Great post.

  74. terrybear August 7, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    For children, marks are an accomplishment to them, to show them how good they are.

    Alternatively, the teacher can give them a praise – “well done”, “good boy”, “good girl”, it also works.

  75. gonewiththesummer August 7, 2011 at 2:35 am #

    That’s fascinating… I think you’ve finally discovered when and how our current school system starts to fail itself. I’ve always wondered myself, but I can see where the lack of motivation spawns in this case. Very interesting… very interesting indeed!

  76. Luqing Ye August 7, 2011 at 2:45 am #

    In order to check whether students are learning well and choose better students for a school ,people invented tests.Tests are just
    a sort of means,rather than the final goal.But in China,many many students are more eager for good grades than the pure
    pleasures in pursuing knowleges.This start at a very young age,as their parents encourage them to do so.

  77. Subhash August 7, 2011 at 2:59 am #

    Great post 😀

  78. heroonthebeach August 7, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    Thanks for sharing this. I am a fellow educator too from Singapore and we are similarly caught up in the grades race. It is a really good reminder to me too.

  79. Left And Write August 7, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    This actually reminded me of a Bollywood movie called 3 Idiots. It shows how students usually go after the grade and less on the learning. They forgot the experience and satisfaction learning can give and just focus on having that grade. When people do this, they lose the essence of education.

  80. Chems Luc August 7, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    Presents, scores, and congratulations; are often effective methods to stimulate young people to do things…

  81. teach82 August 7, 2011 at 3:20 am #

    I teach 3rd grade and I completely understand what you are talking about. The students always want some kind of reward for doing what I think is expected. Part of it is the political-ness of schooling in today’s society. I taught pre-school before teaching public school and i too was soo impressed with their intrinsic motivation. Keep doing what you are doing because this stage of learning should last as long as possible. =) Great post!

  82. novelfish August 7, 2011 at 4:07 am #

    Very true story. From young, the minds of most children are cultivated by their parents that they have to do well in school to excel in life. With “doing well” what the parents really meant was not the willingness to learn and make mistakes, parents’ definition of “doing well” meant no mistakes and perfect grades. This a not a healthy way for children to start their schooling life in my opinion. If you had children, would you push them towards this path?

  83. meerachandra August 7, 2011 at 4:07 am #

    I am a teenager. Now reading this, I remember how I used to be curious about the little things I find out as a part of my studies in my childhood. By the age of 10, I lost that quality and started chasing marks. As a child I used to refer to the dictionary (English is not my mother tongue) for the fun of learning a new word, but later I started guessing the meaning. I wish I had a teacher like you who would have helped me to retain my curiosity. Learning for the fun of it is the best thing that can happen to an education-oriented world like ours. Thanks for the post.

  84. ellie98 August 7, 2011 at 4:37 am #

    I’m so glad you are the kind of teacher that cares about the kid’s drive to learn. I think that all some of my teacher’s care about is the number and they judge students by that number as well. I study really hard, but I have very bad test anxiety which has caused some horrible grades on my work. I wonder if the teacher is judging me by my test score, or if it’s all in my head. Good post!

  85. baligins August 7, 2011 at 4:48 am #

    I’m studying to be a teacher and my favorite part of my experience is watching the excitement in the students’ eyes when they learn something new- they beam with pride. It’s so unfortunate that the kids were so focused on the number on the tops of their papers :/

  86. kevin3191 August 7, 2011 at 4:52 am #

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  87. expatlogue August 7, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    An interesting piece – I have noticed the same change in my 6 yr old daughter – it’s no longer the activity itself that gives the pleasure but the promise of an end result. Wishing your life away starts young – I reckon it might be to do with the emergence of wishing to be the same as their peers…

  88. Anne-Sophie August 7, 2011 at 5:09 am #

    Wow, that was such an interesting post! I truly think children can give us insights into psychology–things tend to be simpler with them since their minds, values and habits have not been complicated by years of experience and judgement.
    Just like your kids I have always loved to learn, and I found it sad when I didn’t take my time reading material or rushed through a paper because I just didn’t have enough time. Just like with your kids, it became all about the grades =/ This insight could revolutionize schools… if only it served society’s greater purpose of creating model citizens who follow directions.

  89. jnkhann09 August 7, 2011 at 5:23 am #

    I work at a daycare as well and have also noticed this. It’s awfully sad. It continues on through the school years as well, since, instead of learning the subject, the kids are learning how to take a test to get a good grade. I know, I was one of those students. Sad to admit, but I remember barely anything from school, except test taking tips. I am going to school so that when I have kids I can homeschool them and know what I’m doing. I’m not going to put my kids through the torture of waking up an adult and not knowing a thing about our country’s history, or how to find a square root, or what elements make up water.

  90. praharshith August 7, 2011 at 5:26 am #

    It felt nice reading your post samantha. Though it is hard to digest such facts, our educational system is presently at a juncture where grades play a crucial role in fact the only role to instigate thought process. It is good to read the that you did the right thing at the right time. Best of luck is all I can say.

  91. beckycat2828 August 7, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I think in your example, it was fun for the kids, so they wanted to learn. Take the fun away, and that desire goes away. As a staff training specialist, I see this in adult learners as well. Most of my trainees don’t think of fun, when they think about training. They are just there to please the boss or to learn what they have to in order to perform their job well, get promoted, etc. I have learned that this is one of the major keys to learning. As in your case, you made the activity fun and suspenseful, thus motivating the kids.

    I love to learn new things and I have often wondered why I do. Is it because my family instilled in me that it was important? That’s probably a big part of it. However, I love delving into things that interest me. A big difference is, I choose to learn about subjects I like and automatically gravitate towards my natureal learning style. Now, learning anything having to do with math is another story. I struggled with it. Maybe because my visual impairment didn’t allow me to see the board. However, I couldn’t even see the value in learning it. So, I worked for a good grade so that I coould get into college. Thus, I worked only for the reward.

    I really believe there are many factors that influence learning. Yes, you are right, we are progammed from an ealry age to work for rewards. We are also influenced by family values and culture. Another reason to me is our public schools have taken all the fun out of learning. In Texas, and many other places, students are taught for “The Test.” There is no self-discovery, joy in success, or challenge with that single-minded approach to education. I am also not impressed by a one size fits all attitude toward learning. Children learn in a variety of ways, just like adutls do. I am just not seeing the flexibilty to adjust and capitalize on each childs individuals strengths.

    Just my two cents worth. Thank you for writing your post.

  92. suicidenotebook August 7, 2011 at 5:53 am #

    Actual knowledge is the true reward.

  93. kumarmohit August 7, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    very good

  94. Words4Souls August 7, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    Unfortunately, every individual subconsciously seeks for approval, whether it be from someone they idolize or someone they hate. It is an inherent desire that drives us to go out of our way to do what we think others expect us to do.

    While this is a very disheartening story, and I do express my condolences to you, I believe it is important to realize that learning in itself is a stretch towards success, and through success, approval.

    Sadly, this is how society has conformed education. Whereas before, learning was a pathway to success, now, marks have become a pathway to learning.

  95. observabletruths August 7, 2011 at 6:58 am #

  96. happymusician August 7, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    awesome 🙂 xx

  97. Mudmap August 7, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    really interesting, thanks. The school system suited me to a T but with three children now, one with learning difficulties, we are having to think more and more about what works for learning.

  98. Genevieve August 7, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    I really disagree with the way the grading system works these days. My entire high school and early college career, I was obsessed with my grades. I honestly didn’t care about learning or retaining information past test day. All that mattered was the letter grade I got at the end of the class. For me, it wasn’t just about the joy of getting an A. It was more about keeping my scholarship, getting into the right colleges, etc. GPA became so important in my school career that I forgot about what school is supposed to do: teach you.

  99. ohmart August 7, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Good post Samantha. I wonder what those kids might think when their employers later in life tell them they need to be “giving 110%” to keep their jobs…

  100. Alan King August 7, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    Thank you for this post! I’m a teaching artist at a middle school in DC. I provide creative writing exercises in both the in-class (two classes) and after school. Most of my students in one of my in-class writing workshops are enthusiastic about the idea of writing.

    It gives them a chance to not only apply what they’ve learned from their English teachers, but to express their thoughts and emotions creatively. (Teaching artists often work as a team with English teachers to broaden our students’ horizons with arts education that’s proven to help them in the long run.)

    I’m inspired by the creativity of some of my students. They receive a grade from their English teacher for participating in the writing exercise by putting their best attempt into writing a draft of a poem, and, for extra credit, reciting their work. (The recitation satisfies the public speaking requirement that the English teacher has made part of her class.) And the great thing is that some of the students will actually go for the extra credit.

    It’s disheartening that a few students just slap anything together for a grade without attempting to put their best efforts into the exercise. Luckily for me, the teacher’s not having it. She’ll read their work and if it appears to be words slapped together, she sends them back to the drawing board. And while they sigh and complain, their second attempt is usually much better than their first when they really put their minds to the task.

    Thanks again for this post.

  101. Anna August 7, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Great post, and it is incredibly disheartening about them vying for marks so early on, but at least you were able to set them straight afterwards!

  102. pjmgfashionn11 August 7, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    Great post, but it’s sad that children that young are already seeking the materialistic side of learning.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed x

  103. whatsaysyou August 7, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    The race for marks is part of the ugly race called the rat race. From my experience in life, I can tell you how a race for marks can reveal the ugly side of humanity where some people think getting high grades equates success in life and everything whilst getting low grades means a person is a total loser. Getting high marks does not always mean success in life. Congratulations for being Freshly Pressed.

  104. gokon August 7, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    interesting stuff here.

  105. Muhammad Usama August 7, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    Your Lesson is Great ans It has to implement in our real world.

  106. meinardputrie August 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    okay..I give 100 percent to you cause you’re amazing.I want hear the announcement about you again.

  107. meinardputrie August 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    ya..aku berikan kau 100 persen karena cerita yang menurutku sangat menarik mengenai kehidupanmu..selanjutnya aku ingin mendengar mengenai beritamu lagi.

  108. One Hundred & 80 Days August 7, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    Great post Samantha!
    I completely understand. In my preK class, I don’t give out treats for learning. Because then it becomes about the treat, stickets, candy, etc. Nor do I reward them or punish them for behavior with candy. Many teachers do this and it becomes all abot the “thing” and getting it. They loose the real reason that they should learn, behave or become part of our classroom community. My daughter will be entering 6th grade and I have also seen what you are explaining with the children her age. Their teachers are under such pressure for the children to succeed…but in a markable, 100% way. Keep up the good work, those children are learning and incredible lesson from you. Learn because it is valuable, fun, and life-long.

  109. amruthmakam August 7, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Nice to know u enjoy teaching young kids. I appreciate that.
    I just wanna add that the meaning of PERFECTION is THAT WHICH CANNOT BE IMPROVED. When your students thought they were perfect coz they got 100%, they were no longer interested to learn.

  110. wisata August 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    so inspiring me…

  111. seila August 7, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Nowday the children’s education is a problem

  112. yamata August 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    This kind of thing often happens in Asia country~~

  113. dallanmyers August 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Our society has totally lost touch with intrinsic rewards, actual accomplishment, and the value of learning just because we are interested. An outside reward has been placed on everything we do, and if you don’t receive some sort of extrinsic reward for a task it is seen as a waste of time. Too much left brain thinking, we really need to start pushing a more right brained intrinsic value system on society as a whole.

    Great post.

  114. classicalliberalarts August 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    I agree that learning should be for the sake of learning and that the ages you mentioned are too young to be competing for marks, but aren’t they a bit young to understand learning for the sake of learning? They might do it instinctively if the topic interests them, but in any other case, I think it takes a mature mind to have this ideal attitude.

  115. laugh2learn August 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    OMG Samantha. You really hit the nail on the head. I have taught all ages from preschool to grad school to adult learners. There are always those who only want the grade and, fortunately, there are almost always some who want the learning for its own sake. In my improv training I have several exercises that encourage people to have fun even when they aren’t “winning.” Thanks for a great post!

  116. Manu August 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    Really interesting post. I didn’t know it was so easy to turn their eager little minds into competitive rat racers so soon. It’s like a black spell or something. Still, rewards can be a good stimulans too when they actually try to master something they really want to learn. It can be a combination of the best of both worlds.

    Rancilio Silvia

  117. X - Expression August 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    ????? your post is good but i don’t speak inglish =(

  118. sahil khanna August 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    really nice article, even i also wrote an article on similar lines, hope you will give it a read.

    and it’s a coincidence that we both use the same theme for our blogs. 🙂

  119. annedearle August 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    An interesting post and so sad that children have to be that competitive

  120. karmajane August 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Very interesting. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  121. Mark bulahao August 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    You probably saw this video already but most of your readers probably didn’t. Great content. Anyone interested in education should watch it.

  122. adoptkattle August 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    I couldn’t even stay awake in class, worse than hipnosis. I really did try though and thought the material was interesting colors and all, but I think it was her daily goal to be as boring as possible until I went down and then Blame ME for it!

  123. mrbricksworld August 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    I give your blog a 100%

  124. avidsapphire August 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    A very nice post, but the question is do kids or even for that matter adults try to make an extra effort to achieve something if there is no reward?

  125. V August 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    Interesting post. You might be interested in reading a post on a similar theme from the American Express OPEN forum here

  126. debmetsfan August 7, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    Great and interesting post, Samantha!

    Personally, I find it comforting to see my grades so that I know how well I am doing and what I can do to improve. I went back to college (earned my AAS in 1984) to work on my BS in Communications at the age of 46 and I have a 4.0 GPA. I’m always worried about my grades and want to do the best that I can. However, I love watching documentaries and reading factual books so that i can learn about anything else that interests me. I love learning for the sake of learning and want to know everything.

    I am surprised that very young children are all about the grade. I think it gives them a sense of accomplishment to know that they did a great job, though! I think that being competitve and comparing grades at their age (preschoolers) is sad. The reality of our world is that the best is given to the ones with the greatest accomplishments, or so it seems to me here in New Jersey.

    Best of luck to you!

  127. stuli1989 August 7, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    This was a brilliantly insightful look into how sad the race for marks can be and how learning at even such a young age has lost its innocence in most classes around the world… coming from india I know cause in some places here the race seems to start way too soon

  128. andisetyawan August 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    Samantha, I need your permission to spread your experience among my colleges, I really hope it can be a wake up call for them.
    I’m a private lecturer and many time I faced something ugly about education in my country.

    Anyway, we live in a material world, anything comes from a mind always been challenged by itself. I hope you will always be a great supporter of the value of learning.

  129. :D August 7, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    Amazing fact about kids and makes me think how we should reconsider about the education system not only in the US but the rest of the world.

    Grades in school do not necessary grade how well we live..


  130. achilliad August 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    Reminds me of a mainstream R&B/Disco record heard on NYC radio during the 1970s entitled, “Too Much Too Soon”. A phenominon that is related to diminishing “common sense” caused by “instant gratification” provided by electronic gadgets and ‘technology’…I could go on…
    Suffice to congratulate U upon being Freshly Pressed! and , Hey, I like your blog’s theme…I reminds me of MINE! ( Cheers!

  131. Simpler August 7, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    Multi bloggeri romani ar vrea sa stie daca ai avea curajul sa raspunzi la cateva provocari simple si de bun simt. Daca esti interesat/a sa participi la acest joc intre bloggeri intra aici.

  132. eviejane August 7, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    Terrific post 🙂

  133. notsoaveragejoehart August 7, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    I come from a family of teacher, while I myself am not one. I hear all the time that they are being pressured into getting the schools scores up so they can receive more funding from the state. The incentives that come their way from performing well are hard to pass up. Things such as Ipad’s to more class funding for supplies only name a few. It has become second nature to these kids to perform well and be marked well. The eagerness to learn is gone and has been replaced with make me look good and you will look good as well. You have a hard job ahead, but stay focused and the kids will come out better.

  134. Alan Zhong August 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    At that age, assessment shouldn’t play a large role in a child’s education. They should learn for the sake of learning as you said in your post.

  135. crpeterson August 7, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    Very interesting observation. Great post!

  136. The Savvy Sister August 7, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    You sound like the kind of teacher all our kids need. Wait till high school. Your kids will be valued by their SAT score. Everyone will know theirs and everyone will know who is “smart” and who is getting scholarships for theirs…i.e who is of more value. Sad but true.

  137. Margo Karolyi August 7, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    Even at the (community) college level, students are more interested in their grade(s) than in how much they’ve learned. They’ll argue for a half a mark and challenge a final grade to ‘improve their average’ – whether it’s warranted or not. The underlying problem, I think, lies in the upbringing many of them get at an early age (and beyond) – being constantly told they are ‘perfect’ and can ‘do nothing wrong’, and having parents who come to their ‘defense’ and challenge the authority of teachers, coaches, and so on doesn’t prepare them for school or the realities of life!

  138. obsidianfactory August 7, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

    I think that happened to me when I was young — I wanted to learn and challenge myself but in the end I got graded and poorly because I was not doing it the way they wanted me to do it.

    Soon, my drive to learn and grow was put into a coma from constant haemorrhage and all my school life I was a failure — one of the worst students in the class. I was always told to get better grades but I was not interested. Because to me learning was not only about grades (innately, subconsciously I knew learning was more than grades). Soon, I was just the aimless loser.

    Until Allah Almighty finally let me get that spark back when I was a little older (though I was no longer in my early teens) and upon reflection I want to be melancholic — I felt that the system cheated me out of my own potentials (its like this everywhere in the world)

    Now I am recovering: hopefully, by Allah Almighty’s Will I hope to get what I had lost unjustly…▬

  139. MkMiku August 7, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    Because all educational institutions care about is a number and standardized testing. In the education system we have today, they don’t care how well you think outside the box, if you can’t answer A, B, C, D.

  140. travelsofaniceguy August 7, 2011 at 11:27 pm #


    Thank you for articulating so well, an issue that in western democracies education systems has become so pervasive. In the UK grade ‘inflation’ has resulted in far more ‘A’ grades than ever before and a singular focus on getting the marks regardless of what or how you study.

    You may find a book “all must have prizes” by Melanie Phillips interesting as it discusses this issue in depth.

  141. successisthebestrevenge August 8, 2011 at 12:30 am #

    My question would be pertaining to the communication with the sub. She was aware of the lesson. Was she aware of the process and the goal? Some individuals require specific details to make it work as you did. I have written grants for children’s programs; and directed programs that involved children in charter school settings. She may have lacked the skills to be effective.

  142. oreoowner August 8, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    Hi! I am a teacher of 3rd grade. I find by the time the kids get to me, they ask-what do I get if I play this game, or what do I get for doing my homework. The children have been trained to expect something for anything they do. It is very sad, and they don’t have that respect or sense of pride in their work anymore. I tend to steer away and talk to the kids about rewards, and how they should feel good for doing great work, and don’t always need a prize. It works for some kids, and not for others. But I completely understand.

  143. Stephanie August 8, 2011 at 1:23 am #

    Someday those kids will look back and be glad to have had such a marvelous teacher. Well done!

  144. charlywillnotbesteppedon August 8, 2011 at 1:24 am #

    Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

    I’m a psychology major and from my learning and experience not only as a student but a assistant PE teacher kids are dishearten when their self-image is lowered by a task or objective.

    Kids are very vulnerable to this as we all are. Watching the kids get 100% and be rewarded may have been the stimulus that lowered the kids who didn’t finish self-image. When our self-image is lowered our minds tend to distance the environment or stimulus that brought this upon them (i.e. school work, teams competitions, working out in the gym).

    It’s hard to say exactly what you can do because of the unique personalities your kids all have. Some kids do better when competition arises and some don’t. What research and my experience has shown is to create task and objectives that vary in order for kids find what they’re good at to help increase their overall self-image when they compare their abilities to other children/peers.

    I can see that you love and care so much for your kids it’s heart warming. As long as you continue this I know your kids will love spending their days with you and even when their self-image gets challenged by a task your empathy and love for them will shine through and fill their hearts with love.

    With much Love & Respect

  145. maketodayawesome August 8, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    That was a really interesting post.

    And being a student myself atm, just reading the first part of your post made me realise that how marks-oriented we get as we get older ! And I was making a mental note of just copy pasting this part ” They want to do math just because they think it’s amazing that I can show them how to do it!” and just looking at it from time to time when I think math or learning in general is getting boring. And to remind myself that its not just fulfilling the syllabus criteria that should be my goal but instead to enjoy the process of learning ! So thanks for posting it really ensures an attitude change in me next time I step into a classroom ! =)

    And about the second part of your post – this line stood out to me:’ just excitement for the mark that was written at the top of the page’. And I think this starts holding true the older the student gets. You are right, the marks are what start to matter. It doesn’t matter how you obtained the information. And on a further note, the marks start to define you.

    But I must say that your students are lucky that at least for now you have saved them from being mark-focused !

  146. emilydnelson August 8, 2011 at 3:10 am #

    As someone who works in childcare, I find this incredibly frightening, and not something I’d thought of before.

  147. metaplastic August 8, 2011 at 3:11 am #

    That is a very sad story, and I am at a point of my life when I can totally empathize with you and your students. I just finished college and I remember in all my experiences as a student, things were only worth studying if you got an A in something, because if you didn’t get an A in something, that meant you failed at something. Being deemed a failure is both a personal and social form of embarrassment because it was proof that you weren’t “living it up to your very best” and that somebody out there was better than you. It was wracked with feelings of guilt, and I totally get that it suppressed any potential for learning.

  148. Leah August 8, 2011 at 3:33 am #

    This is a great post! I have a daughter in preschool and it’s amazing to see her desire to learn and do new things for just that reason alone — to learn. I always try to teach her the “reward” for learning is the learning itself. Not the sticker or mark on the page, as you observed from this other teacher. I hate seeing so many teachers engage in this behavior now. Even in higher education (I work on a college campus), it happens all the time. I’m worried about the future of this generation unless we get more teachers like you!

  149. erin1216 August 8, 2011 at 3:43 am #

    Awesome post. I can relate to this. I have a 3 year old Goddaughter and her eagerness to learn makes me SO jealous. I mean I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Penn State but if I would have had her level of eagerness and excitement to learn new things I would have done better in college, no doubt about that.

    Thanks for posting!

  150. 5 Minute Strangers August 8, 2011 at 3:48 am #

    I have been reading many of these thoughtful responses, but I am stuck in wondering if it has anything to do with grades at all–the grade mark is just and an often injust measure of our society’s law of Acceptance. Society has conditioned us to care more about “your” acceptance rather than “self” acceptance, and because so, whether it be making the grade, choir, football team and or dance team, our kids shallow breathe daily deep in wondering will s/he find a spot to belong–A Place where WE say yes or no.

  151. zaward August 8, 2011 at 3:53 am #

    Well dear, it is really nice what you was doing with these kids…I ahve been working as teacher ,grade 5 to above, in thise side of Arab world…it is really amazing when you observe how kids grow up and how they develope diffrent kinds of learning procedures..some of these preocedures are funny, wired, but still creative because they express what these kids want to do to lear….

    all the best for you dear ^_*


  152. [^INTELIGENTE^] August 8, 2011 at 3:58 am #

    Damn haha… u didi it!! 😉

  153. Technogeek58 August 8, 2011 at 4:01 am #

    Very Nice =)

  154. Dyanen August 8, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    You absolutely made the right decision to stop giving stickers and 100% to kids who accomplished stuff! You made them realize that learning is not all about grades. And yes, grades are a very unreliable indicator of a person’s wisdom.

  155. Nimish Jalan August 8, 2011 at 5:13 am #

    Hi Samantha,

    Great article!! Do you wonder if the parents of these children had a role to play in this? I mean the first thought that comes to my mind is that the children must have shared their stories with their parents, who would have told them that they did the best they could and it could not get any better. Eventually, leading the children to give up on learning any more?

    Nimish Jalan

  156. caoliu0 August 8, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    Do well in school because you WANT to better yourself

  157. Michael Verhoef August 8, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    Thank you for this.
    As a parent of soon to be 2 year old twin girls – there are parts of this that really resonate – mostly the girls current desire to learn (something I hope they never lose!).
    And also thank you for being a caring teacher – it’s a rare and beautiful thing to see.

  158. pritishmoharana August 8, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    nice post..

  159. the island traveler August 8, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    That is disheartening. Some kids wants the easy way while others want the challenge and the sense of fulfillment when they get a good remark for a job well done. This also reflects todays adult work force. Some want to get a 100% credit without a sweat while others would perform an honest, hardworking job to get the fruits of their labor. It takes a lot of love , patience and dedication to mold our youth but it will all be worth it when we think of the future ahead. Stay strong. You are an inspiration to all of us. congrats.

  160. semi August 8, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    I like your post Samantha. It is very educational.
    Many students strive to get an “A” and at the end of the semester they feel empty as they evaluate themselves as to what they really have retained from a specific course despite their reward.Their future is defined by thier grades and they try to meet the requirements and try to balance. I tell you it is never easy.

  161. Mèo Lười Việt August 8, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Studying fỏ mark is boring. You have to study to satisfy your teachers, your parents, not for the love of knowledge… But it takes risk to follow your passion. 😀

  162. hardnuttogrind August 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm #


  163. benuwellness13 August 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    Good view points, Samantha! I don’t think there is too much of a difference between the public school system and the daycare environments. Unfortunately, we live in a world of instant gratification- from advertising for material possessions, to people not investing in the “harvest” of education (i.e. NCLB, anyone?); being in the school setting becomes disheartening in knowing that your sincerest efforts may be wasted, due parents and administrators who’d rather socially promote their students than address the real issues of concern (whether intrinsic or extrinsic). Even in the area of mental issues that affect the child’s well-being, the over-medication of these same children snowball into the classroom, making the passion for education wain.

    ~Phillip L Lyde

  164. colesk August 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    As a student, I know exactly what you mean. I studied for a creative writing degree and my motivation to write went completely out of the window the moment I knew I was getting graded for it. I no longer wrote for myself, or went about it in the way I always had done, I jumped through the hoops to get the grade I wanted. It was only in my third year that I realised what I was doing, and how sad it was. It’s only now (a year later) that I’ve got back into writing for myself – and sure, I’m using the techniques they taught me, I won’t deny how useful the course was – and I’m beginning to remember why I foudn it so rewarding instead of stressful to begin with.

  165. Bouchra August 8, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Nice story, Samantha. I get what the students felt once they got graded, quantity is what mattered to them, instead of quality.

    Unfortunately, I find myself also losing interest in learning once I know I’ll be rewarded by a grade. I really don’t know how to get out of this as I now have to prepare for standardized testing for college, and I suddenly find myself running out of time — the deadlines are looming up, but I haven’t yet finished learning.

    The only thing that keeps me going currently is the college I want to enter — they keep saying they do not care about the numbers much — I keep wondering that if they do not care much about numbers, then why do they require at least 3 – 4 standardized tests?!

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed.


  166. The Concierge Queen August 8, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    It’s very hard for teachers now to keep the students motivated on the actual work itself…kids are so consumed with the rewards that they forget the fun of actually learning something new…teachers have a tough job because you are like 2nd parents to our kids when they’re with you…you teach them what they need to know to succeed and you want to make sure that they value learning and to want to learn for themselves and for their own growth…as they get older they will learn to appreciate what they learn especially with guidance as great as yours…I pray that my daughter has teachers like you every year!

    Thank you for your effort and caring!


  167. BisonWoman August 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    Learning for the sake of learning is something every teacher would like to impart to her students. Unfortunately, meeting school/state/national/university requirements tempers that effort many times.

  168. Freddie August 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    Wow, interesting stuff, I think its great that you managed to swing them back round a little, good job. Hope you can keep them on the right track. ie. Learning because they want to.

  169. Rey Rok August 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    I’m studying early childhood education so its great to hear from someone inside the work field giving back to those on the way.

  170. lsurrett2 August 8, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    perfect example of one of the many problems facing education today.

  171. qnntaylor August 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    I’ve always been fascinated by the ability of a young child to absorb information. Having worked with many children my self I have noticed that they just find it an amazing thing to learn something new. I never really thought about the effect grades or marks could have on their pursuit of gaining knowledge. After reading your post I now wonder if the same concept of no grades could be used throughtout the rest of the education system. Thank you for sharing such valuable information.

  172. Abby Kelly August 8, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    I am amazed by your insight in your classroom. Thank you for encouraging the purity of learning and loving life. The drive to perform and success and compete destroys so many people. It can lead to eating disorders and addictions and broken spirits and more. God bless you!

  173. Jean Huang Photography August 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Samantha, first of all, congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    Second, thank you for sharing the great observation! It is sad that the race for marks happen this early and this was contributed by the education system. Later on, it will be the race on the house, the car, and the other “things” that can be easily measured (such as their prices) and what’s forgotten is the little voices from the heart that want to do things that are “intangible” and hard to measure, such as doing things that make them (truly) happy or, better yet, doing things that make others happy and make this world a better place. Well, how do you measure happiness? Only your heart can tell you and the race for “things” has quenched the little voice from your heart so that heart eventually gave up.

    If we look around at all the problems in this world, whom to blame other than ourselves and this chase after the superficial that’s disconnected to the basic values that are more true to our hearts?

    BTW, just found out that our birthdays are just one day apart (from different years though). 🙂

  174. Mackenzie | Red Roan Chronicles August 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Really interesting post… I’ve also read some of the research that others mentioned about what rewards do and don’t do. I don’t know a whole lot about the subject but I know as a student I’d have been much less stressed out and probably a better student if I’d gotten feedback from my teachers instead of just letter grades. It was the holy grail for me to have a teacher actually write some notes on my work — whether I’d done well or done badly — to let me know what they thought, rather than just getting another mindless grade. I was never quite sure whether they even read my work, most of the time.

  175. aunaqui August 8, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    This was a very interesting, worth-while read. Love that you are able to see what is happening — our education system spoonfeeds poison. We’re instructed – number one – what to learn.. not how to learn. Number two – the emphasis is on memorization and passing and good scores — not on being a better, more informed, more well-rounded individual after the “education” has been received.

    Aun Aqui

  176. arcanewhisper August 8, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    That’s really sad. As a high school student, I’m guilty of that too… even more so. I used to learn because I loved it. Now I just want to be at the top of the class. It’s depressing. :\

  177. patricemj August 8, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    while I understand that stickers are not the devil, your post certainly does demonstrate how they can and do truly interfere with a deeper or intrinsic motivaton, that sort of motivation that pumps and hopefully will continue to pump from within the student long after they have left the classroom. Stickers are a good way to reinforce order, and order is necessary for learning , and someting kids have a harder time caring about it.

  178. The Serb August 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    This is really incredible . i wish I was at daycare instead of a school in my childhood . I would have learnt a lot from what I know now . I will always make my kids eager and make them have that urge to know more just for the happiness of knowing . Someone said this very rightfully …. Knowledge is Bliss .

  179. transplantednorth August 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    Great post. Have you seen the movie ” Race to Nowhere?” it is an independent film that takes a very disturbing look at how the school system asks more about grades than the actual thinking and learning process. I also had the idea of giving out stickers backfire on me in a preschool setting: I gave stickers to the kids I caught doing the right thing, and then I got whines and tears from the other kids.

  180. fireandair August 8, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    I’m of two minds on this. Yes, it’s a shame that the kids reacted that way, but … and I hate to sound like one of those irritating “old salt” types, but the world will squash one’s motivation sometimes, even without trying and meaning it personally. As those kids grow up, they will bump up against things like this, and they will have to learn to maintain their love of something in the face of it. People are not islands living in the universe all by themselves, and they need to find what they love so much that they will continue to do it no matter what.

    As a kid, I was one of those annoying ones that devours knowledge and information no matter what. There were grades attached, which was pleasant, but there were also a lot of negative things attached, like getting beat up and disliked for getting those good grades. Happily, my desire to learn was bigger than the negative reinforcement I got — not from the grades, but from the other kids’ reactions to those grades, which was to gang up and become violent. (And even sometimes the teachers, who resented a kid who could read at a high school level in 1st grade.)

    The fact is that, if one loves something, one will continue to do it for its own intrinsic reasons. The little kid that will continue to do something no matter what stickers or grades are attached is the one that has intrinsic motivation. I’m not saying that it is impossible to squash a child’s love for something — I’ve had that happen as well, and it’s ugly and unpleasant and quite viciously possible and takes a very long time to recover from it, if ever. I know that personally. But it takes years of concerted, vicious, neverending effort on the part of the people who are doing the squashing, not just a sticker and a smiley face on top of a piece of paper.

    It’s also the case that, even if the kid is mastering something that they love and are rewarded for, sometimes the mastering process itself is difficult. Take learning an instrument or a language as an example. The inherent difficulty is doing either will be a fairly nasty headwind in and of itself, way worse than the supposedly devastating effects of a grade. If the kid’s motivation flags in the face of a grade or a sticker, it will never survive the inherent difficulties of sounding like crap on an instrument for years, or making a fool out of yourself while learning a new language. If the kid has inherent motivation and love of something, it will take way, way more than a sticker to crush that love out of them. It is certainly possible to do so, but you will have to actively smash that kid down year after year, and even then, it still might not work forever.

  181. gaycarboys August 8, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    Sad, but that’s modern life for you. We had a competition at school. Each day we would select a random word from the dictionary then use it as much as we could dduring the day, no matter what the word was. I still remember some of those words 35 years later. antidisestablishmentarianism was one of them. Imagine trying to wwork that into a 15 yo’s conversation. And now, stickers, marks and perceived achievment is all we have left. Ah well I guess it couldd be worse. Now we have Gen Y tech-speak. Now we are really in strife!

  182. critters and crayons August 8, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    This is awesome!!!! Something to think about as we raise our young kids! Thanks!

  183. teachertalktom August 8, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    Thoughtful, Samantha. You simply stated how quickly and how easily we can diminish ourselves by rewarding the wrong behaviour.

  184. Romantic Asian Guy August 8, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    Wow, thanks post brings up some interesting issues. I feel sad kids, and most adults, are focusing on the wrong things. The entire education system needs to be revamped.

    I admire others who still have that hunger to learn for the sake of learning something new.

  185. cielotech August 8, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Excellent posts. I am now a suscriber. Great job. I also write a blog concerning education but engineering education at the high school and college levels. Your insights certainly do apply to the students I come in contact with. Take care. Bob J.

  186. nlsthzn August 8, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    Wow… Very insightful… Great observation!

  187. Kimberly Beaman August 8, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Insightful thank you! I work with children, teens and adults as a counselor. I really also liked your wordpress page- in which you declared “me the teacher” “me the person” and “me the artist”…I can certainly relate to that!

  188. Yasir Imran August 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    Great post buddy. dived your comments into pages to decrease page length.

  189. Sharina Cromartie August 8, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Once a measurement system has been put in place we have no choice but to compare ourselves to it. Our children should never be boxed in but American society is filled with so many boxes. White, black, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, etc not allowing anyone, esp the next generation, to find themselves before being labeled as anything except FREE!!! ♥ Great post!! You have an awesome job & you are the perfect fit for it because you are awesome!!! Enjoy the children!! Always praying for those that are responsible for the generations to come!! ♥ :o)

  190. Nikole Hahn August 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    They worked towards a goal and stopped when they reached the goal without any inclination to improve their work or learn why they did the puzzle. Reminds me of math. I’m the type of person who requires a traditional classroom. Self-learning math is too difficult and requires repetition to keep it in my head. I signed up in college for what I thought was traditional math and instead got teacher who didn’t want to teach. I memorized the equations and passed the class with a ‘B’. By myself, I didn’t have the determination to learn more or the encouragement. In a few months, I soon forgot the formulas.

  191. kayawilson August 8, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

    Both my daughters attended a christian school and i served many years on the school board. This is sad to see. Everyone wants the good marks, bu without challenges or really applying themselves. thanks for sharing. K

  192. CJ Cook August 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Great post ! The first thoughts that entered my mind was how soon we loose the true meaning of being a child when learning is exciting fresh and new no boundries being able to express your feelings and emotions without being graded. Our society is now based on a grading system, the further you go with your education you are graded, apply for a job you are graded, your credit score you are graded, now they even want to grade your looks and personality on a scale from 1 to 10 ! Let children be children as long as you can. We need more perceptive educators such as yourself…Thank you.

  193. Olivia K August 8, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Great reflections. Makes me think . . .

  194. PiedType August 8, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    How wonderful that you stood your ground and let them find their own motivation again. We need more teachers like you — at all grade levels.

  195. mysoulforsale August 9, 2011 at 12:20 am #

    Oh my God… that IS sad. I’m so glad I read this because I never would have thought of “marks” as being something that impeded learning. Thanks for teaching ME something today! You’re obviously an excellent teacher, and your kids are lucky to have you. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  196. raj2607singh August 9, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    It is really interesting that how active you are in your writting. Your response to those children shows that you are very practical in your life.
    You will really rock in your classrooms. .

  197. Sara Yori August 9, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    Ever since elementary school that’s all the interested students ever really cared about – who gets the highest mark and by how much?
    Fast forward to the future and it’s still the same idea, even in college.

  198. comingeast August 9, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    Loved how you called it a cancer, for surely that is what it was. Powerful piece!

  199. niedao August 9, 2011 at 1:21 am #

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  200. sea0516 August 9, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    As a teacher myself, I have seen a decline in students being instrinsically motivated to achieve. Students often have an unfortunate attitude that says “What’s in it for me? What am I going to get out of this?” It would be so nice to keep the innocence and energy that young ones possess. I try to promote a sense of accomplishment with my students when they can successfully learn something, and when I say learn I do not mean that they just quickly regurgitate it back, but truly learn a topic and store it in their long term memory. I tell students to forget the grades and look at the knowledge they have gained. If they truly learn something then the grades will come.

    I have to say that I hate grading. When kids go to kindergarten they are quickly placed into their ranks of “good kid” or “bad kid” based on someone’s assessment of their performance. I truly feel like those identities follow them throughout their educational lives (and perhaps beyond) unless they are given a clean slate.

  201. longchamp outlet August 9, 2011 at 2:49 am #

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  202. Joanna Langada August 9, 2011 at 3:22 am #

    Great post. The conflict between intrinsic and extrinstic motivations is quite an issue for young children and even older kids. Intrinsic motivation seems to ‘come naturally’, however anyone raising kids knows that we basically teach them pretty much everything in terms of boundaries for behavior by providing incentives, and/or punishments. Many of the activities kids enjoy are subject to restrictions and interruptions…based on schedules and priorities that parents and educators set. In terms of social needs, acceptance and belonging in any group is enhanced by proof of excellence…good players are praised in any sport, prizes are given in school (and rewards at home) for good grades, etc. Everyone seems to say to kids that it’s important to do well, do their best…and yes, it is, but very few people say ‘this should also be fun for you’!

    My younger son still thinks of school as fun, and is excited by learning even though he also cares about his performance. My older son had a very different reaction when he first went to school, and in spite of my efforts to emphasize that learning should be fun, that he should explore and enjoy himself, he became very discouraged by performance reviews and reports, by lack of emphasis on artistic skills and in later years, by so much time being devoted to the yearly AIMS tests.

    Unfortunately, I hear from parents and in general, people talking about how important it is for kids (and adults) to live and do things based on what fulfills them, to look beyond external rewards and performance evaluations, and yet the same people inevitably cheer for the winning team, offer special treats and classroom parties as incentives for performance, and so of course kids learn that rewards are important, and confuse the reward with what should be their true goal.

    Anyway…huuuuuge subject, so much to discuss on so many levels. Really enjoyed the post and many of the comments. 🙂

  203. yagerbabies August 9, 2011 at 4:03 am #

    I worked with kids up until I had my second daughter (I now have 5 kids) But I totally agree with what your saying, but I also think kids like to be encouraged with rewards. They have a natural want to learn, and if a simple sticker can encourage them then let them have their stickers! 😉 lol Great post 😀

  204. msperfectpatty August 9, 2011 at 4:11 am #

    I’m new to this blog thing but i just read this post it was really interesting LOVE IT!

  205. ava812 August 9, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    Yes, very true and very sad. I actually have a preschooler and they had their first Master test. There was a last part of each test (mathematics, science, reading, language and writing), that they call authentic assessment and the criteria is, correctness, neatness and creativity. It bugged me that my child rated 1 or 0 in creativity out of a perfect 2. I am thinking of home schooling or finding a better school. The love for learning should be nurtured not how high your grades are. Have you seen the 3 idiots movie? I love that movie, it’s about the passion for learning for the love of learning.

  206. Nazneen Saifuddin August 9, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    Indeed competing for grades has become a cancer@

  207. chubychuquotes August 9, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    We all tend to be goal oriented, it is the posts in life that make the difference between success and stagnation, so i don’t feel goals (marks) are bad they are just a necessity to achieve success

  208. SAM August 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    yeah.. go to school to learn..
    Thanks for this post..

  209. Rio August 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    My kids were lucky to go to a community school that was “alternative” in that it had NO MARKS, AT ALL. Siblings were encouraged to visit each others classes and a trip to the principal’s office was a reward! When we had to move to a new area we were told that “alternative” schools were only for the kids with behavior problems or who were disabled in some way so I bowed to pressure and put them in the “regular” school. At first the novelty of marks was exciting for them and they all were at the top in their classes but gradually they became less and less interested in doing more than what was necessary to get by.

    They enjoyed and learned more things outside of school. I am glad that none of these things destroyed them.

    It was the worst decision I ever made as a parent. When my youngest was 12 I took him out and put him in an “alternative” school. There were kids there who had physical, emotional and mental challenges but instead of dragging down the other kids, they inspired compassion and patience and sharing. My son won a provincial prize for math and was accepted into Micro Biology in university.

    You can’t put numbers on learning and prejudice is ALWAYS IGNORANCE.

  210. Patty August 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    What’s even sadder is that as they get older, they’ll see that the marks system doesn’t end with school. But I believe you’ve helped give these kids a good foundation to build on. You saw them loving the learning process long before they discovered the numbers game, and some of them will carry that well into adulthood.

    My mom worked at a daycare and preschool when I was little. My dad’s an engineering professor. People tend to give my dad most of the credit when they compliment me and my siblings on how smart we all are (we’re a family of geeks). I myself blame my mom.

    While my dad taught me to constantly challenge myself and aim for excellence, my mom taught me to enjoy the process of discovery. My dad gave me targets to aim for; my mom showed me how much fun I could have while doing it. []

    You’ve got the chance to influence these kids just as my mom influenced me, and I rejoice in the fact that you were sensitive enough to see how the difference between learning and earning a grade affected them. I know you’ll do something about it. On behalf of these kids, thank you.

    (Long comment is long.)

  211. PerpetualSurvival August 9, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    It’s definitely a problem when students are going through school simply to make the grade. This tends to happen a lot with college too. Students rushing through to get the perfect grade but when they graduate they can’t even remember what they “learned”. The education in this country needs a serious revamp. Great post, Samantha.

  212. Joan Criscuolo August 9, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    What is described in this day care environment is a natural part of a Montessori education. The children learn through the use of all their senses, they learn by doing the work for themselves, and are not graded in a traditional way. They love to come to school and learn all that they can. Our school has progress reports for both the Kindergarteners and the Elementary students. These reports show the parents and the students how much they have learned and shows what may be needed to be worked on. The emphasis is not on the grade. The children are offered help in the areas that need the extra boost and move on to the next challenge.

    It’s amazing to me to see both the younger students and the older students ask for more work and strive to complete their work.

  213. Lisa Christensen Jackson August 10, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    I have a similar problem at home with my husband and other relatives. It’s tough. They don’t know. They just have to read Alfie Kohn’s book, and they’ll understand!

  214. Tim Wilhelmus (@twilhelmus) August 11, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Great Post, Samantha. I shared it with everyone in my PLN. Keep up the great work.

  215. Mikhail August 29, 2011 at 2:25 am #

    I can totally relate to this story. Before I was too much concerned with getting high marks regardless of any means necessary, but after contemplating, I now knew that I was the loser there. Grades were just foolish distractions. What I just really wanted then was to learn.

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  218. raepica May 22, 2023 at 1:11 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this story! It serves as a wonderful example of how external rewards and praise can dampen intrinsic motivation. I would just ask that you use the term “childcare,” as opposed to “daycare.” No one is taking care of days, and I truly believe the use of that term contributes to the vision of early childhood professionals as babysitters. Language matters. Thanks again for your story, and for the opportunity to express my thoughts.


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