One issue which I have struggled with since the inception of the Marzano evaluation system in our district is the authentic celebration of student success. Part of this struggle was the lack of professional development surrounding the 41 Marzano elements in our district. The other piece was the question how do you showcase or plan for that specific element to be observable in a meaningful way when administrators drop by. You had to feature celebrating student success that first year because it was one of three elements that were being scored.
What developed from this determination to feature this element in my classroom and others was a high-five sporting celebration. Some teachers developed a special celebration routine such as the fire cracker clap. It was off-putting to me because I reserve high-fives for the field. My academic life was different from sporting life. In my classroom we charted our books read and hosted a reading celebration. We published a class anthology and celebrated our writing. We celebrated in ways that made sense in our academic community. On the field we charted personal bests and chanted, screamed, and cheered loudly. It seemed out-of-place in my classroom. Yet I do admit I've learned much about teaching from my work coaching track, volleyball, flag football, and cheer leading (the subject of another blog).
I was also influenced early in my career by Alfie Kohn's Punished By Rewards. Daniel Pink's Drive provides further insight into motivation as well and continues to hone my instructional thinking about rewards. My challenge has been, like many other teachers, how to develop readers and writers who are internally motivated. I give erasers to my students because they need them, not because they won them. I don't like to give food rewards, but having food available to hungry students makes a difference. Also as adults we know the power of chocolate.
Kids look at what we post on the walls. Kids look for their names. As my principal later shared, every single student sat up a little straighter in their seats that day. It built classroom community and immediate confidence in their new group members' value. It also gave students the confidence that writers in the room, not in books and not the teacher were accomplished and could show them how. Just this simple acknowledgement of these students honored their progress toward the writing goal and celebrated their success authentically.