Does Every Student Deserve a Cookie?



I must have been living under a rock. I had never heard of how amazing Ron Clark’s books were until this summer. I’ve only just begun reading The End of Molasses Classes.

I’m only 20+ pages into it and...

I... AM... HOOKED!!

I’ve been so inspired by his book, that I started a “Teaching Tips from Ron Clark” Pinterest board. You can find it {here}.

Now this post is a little backwards. Normally bloggers write to inform their reader. At the end of this post, I’m actually going to be asking your advice.


What does this have to do with cookies?

One of Ron Clark’s 101 tips for motivating students roughly translates into every student DOES NOT deserve a cookie. Mr. Clark periodically makes cookies for his class, but he does not give cookies to students who have not worked hard during that time period. He does, however, provide them with an opportunity to improve their work habits before the next time he plans to make cookies for the class. He wants students to feel as though they have actually earned their cookie.

My dad is a football coach. My mom is a Kindergarten teacher. What does that have to do with any of this? Simple. They both raised me to work as I hard as I could, then work a little harder. I inherited their “you get what you work for” kind of mentality. I think this is why Ron Clark’s method resonated with me so instantly.

What I’ve Done in the Past

In past years, I have struggled with this concept in my classroom. We do a “Fun Friday” art project every week. Students are only eligible to participate if they have completed all of their work for the week. Here's an example from our "Worm Week".



Please do not misunderstand me. I do everything I can to help keep students on track and complete their required activities. If a student has not finished, it is because they have not used their time wisely (teachers, you know which kids I’m talking about).

But, even then, I still felt SO GUILTY that those students are missing out. I love my students and I want EVERY STUDENT to have a fun and rewarding school experience. I feel like even those fun crafts and activities present such great teachable moments and those are the moments that the kids will remember twenty years from now.

Where I Think I’ve Gone Wrong

My biggest mistake has been a lack of clear expectations. This is something that Ron Clark addresses in his book. To avoid students (and parents) feeling like they are being left out or singled out, you HAVE TO set clear expectations and consequences from Day One.

I feel like I do a pretty good job of this in the classroom with my students.  I need to work on doing the same thing with my parents. If students are falling behind on their work, I need some sort of system for letting parents know early in the week. Hopefully with encouragement from their teacher AND their parents, students will be more motivated to finish their work and be eligible to participate in Fun Friday activities.

What I Need From You

Okay, after reading my “Where I’ve Gone Wrong”, what kinds of tips do you have for communicating with parents?

My biggest problem has been consistency. Do you track how many times you send notes, emails, etc?

Do you make a point to let your students know that you’ve been communicating with their parents? If so, what’s the best strategy?

I want to send home just as many, if not more, positive notes than negative. Any tips for positive communication notes?


Thanks in advance for your great advice. This is something that I have thought about all summer. I want to be able to let parents know when school starts what kind and how frequently they can expect individualized communication from me.

6 comments

  1. Hi Kristen! I'll complete one of Ron Clark's books before I go to bed this evening. It's been SUCH an easy read that I know I have to read another one. Your post just solved the problem for me. Thanks!
    And... no, I don't believe every child deserves a cookie. (That's not the world we live in.)
    And... yes, I feel guilty at times, too!

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    1. Leslie,

      Which Ron Clark book did you choose? I have been obsessively reading The End of Molasses Classes. I can't decide which one to pick up next.

      Kristen

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  2. Great post! Love your honesty. One way I have parent communication is I send out a weekly letter. I send it via email to most parents (they can provide me with their email if they want it that way at the start of the year). What I find is that it's easy for parents to hit reply and send me a comment, related to the weekly letter or not. This opens up dialogue for us easily, and I can send off a quick positive note. Another teacher in my district just recommended an app called Fresh Grade. It seems awesome and I'm going to give it a try next year.


    Fun in Fourth

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    1. Angela,

      I love the idea of a weekly letter. I can definitely see how it would quickly open the door for dialogue and positive behavior notes. I've never heard of Fresh Grade but I am on my way to research it now. Thank you so much for your comment. It's been very helpful!

      Kristen

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  3. Loved reading your post. I send out a weekly newsletter and I also email parents. This year I plan on attaching my newsletter on an email as well sending it home on Monday. There are so many parents that say they didn't ever see the newsletter. I am hoping that if I send it via email they will all see it. My favorite thing that I started doing last year to communicate with parents was using Remind (https://www.remind.com/). Check it out if you haven't heard of it. It lets you text message every parent in your class without exchanging numbers and parents cannot reply. It was a life saver for me last year. I could send quick reminders and know parents got them. I teach first grade so I could Remind parents that something important came home or that homework is due. It worked great to Remind them the night before field trips or class parties.
    TheCoreCoaches

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    1. The Core Coaches,

      Thank you so much for such a detailed reflection on my post. What time of day do you send your newsletter? Monday morning or Monday afternoon? I've heard of Remind 101 and I even signed up for it one year but I didn't find myself using it very often. I'm looking into doing a Facebook page this year to send out reminders, but mainly to share pictures, etc. Have you had any experience with Facebook pages?

      Kristen

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