As an educator at Princeton High School the past 29 years, I have seen the “carrot” for attendance incentives. Sure, it’s effective in the short term of a four-year high school career. But what is a “carrot” really teaching our youths?
One of my responsibilities as an educator/coach is to develop commitment. When responsibilities are not met, consequences occur — in the classroom, at home, extracurricular activities.
All too often, the “carrot” of enticement turns into a “super-sized” buffet of empty calories.
I support the stance of the PHS Board of Education, the administrators and staff for their continued teaching of the importance of attendance without incentive rewards.
Incentives, a version of what psychologists call extrinsic motivators, do not alter the attitudes that underlie our behaviors. They do not create an enduring commitment to any value or action.
Rather, incentives merely — and temporarily — change what we do. Sure, Geneseo and Rochelle have seen an increase in attendance rates. But are these incentives teaching commitment? Teaching responsibility? The value of a education? Or just boosting attendance for state aid that help schools financially?
Educators who dole out goodies to students for doing what they are supposed to do are muddying that message. If a child is conditioned to expect special rewards and incentives for meeting basic obligations, he or she might not develop the right habits or be able to overcome adversity.
In the adult world, you don’t get a “carrot” for showing up at work on time. You actually get something far more important – a paycheck.
That’s the larger lesson our children should learn and appreciate from Day One.
Note to readers: Eric Tinley is a department head and social sciences instructor at Princeton High School, assistant boys basketball coach, and PHSEA union president.