Behavior Modification for teachers

I had the pleasure of attending the most propaganda laden school board meeting EVER.  When I got home, my daughter asked why I was gone so long.  I told her I actually left early to which she replied that I might miss the important stuff. . . I laughed as there is no way that our school board truthfully covers the important stuff. 

In fact, tonight I had the joy of listening to the revised version of probably the most elaborate behavior system set up for our teachers.  Douglas County has implemented a CITE evaluation system which relies on a rubric system that rates teachers as highly effective, effective or down right sucky.   But it needs to be called what it is: BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION for teachers.

According to the online definition behavior modification is the alteration of behavioral patterns through the use of such learning techniques as biofeedback and positive or negative reinforcement using rewards.  


Around 20 years ago this was the returning fad in education around how to manage the classroom.   You couldn’t expect kids to just behave or do what they were expected to do.  You had to reward them like dogs trained to do tricks.  That’s all there was to it. 

I had the joy of seeing behavior modification first hand when subbing in a 1st grade classroom.  Kids were running up to me stating they needed 3 more stars to get a coin and 4 more coins to get their  name in the rewards bucket.  I remember how involved the children were in the behavior program that this first year teacher had set up.  After morning recess, a little girl with sandy blond hair approached me to inform me that she got a star for not hitting anyone at recess.  Her friend confirmed this.  Throughout the day, kids were coming up explaining their behavior from sitting up straight to not interrupting . . . and in turn they were telling me the prize they expected due to their amazing behavior.  I was horrified at the dog like behavior we were expecting from our children.  I don’t remember a lot of learning going on that day, but I do remember feeling overwhelmed by implementing a system that had nothing to do with relationship building and actual old fashioned learning.  It had nothing to do with actual teaching . . . NOTHING!!

A few days later in the same school, I subbed for an experienced teacher and panicked when I didn’t see any discipline plans at all.  As kids entered the classroom, I quickly pulled one aside. . “What does  your teacher do if you talk when you shouldn’t?” 

The student looked at me like I was crazy. . . “She tells us to stop talking.”

And right then and there, I realized why deep down I knew that behavior modification was a fraud.  I spent the day actually teaching and responding to what the students in the class needed.  I needed no external training program to do this.

And that is exactly what is happening in Douglas County, Colorado.   After tonight’s board meeting,  I realize the biggest issue that is at the heart of all of our issues is this elaborate behavior modification for teachers who are so busy running around earning stars that can be turned into coins.  It makes me sick.

And for once, I am saying I want to go back to the old time tradition of just expecting  and respecting the teachers’ ability to teach. 


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7 responses to “Behavior Modification for teachers

  1. campak14

    The structure has been in place for a long time, sorting and categorizing human beings, driving the cold hard spike of inappropriate pressure and toxic stress into the malleable minds of children. ..

    • John

      Of course you know how this story ends… When said teacher has modified the behavior sufficiently and test scores remain the same, teachers will be blamed, or the students, but never the system. What a mess!

  2. An excellent illustration of what can happen when administrators don’t think through PBIS! Wow. “Hey, I didn’t smack anyone. Can I have a token now?”
    There ARE kids who don’t understand the rules, and kids who need to in order to remember them. Kids with sensory issues may need to know “Why can’t I chew gum or hum while I’m doing my work? It helps me focus.” Good questions. If teachers focus on the function of the behavior and guide the student to figure out what will work for the student and the teacher, life gets easier. I don’t know how to monetize that or create a fancy acronym; my mom would call that common sense! 🙂

    • The fact that we are creating elaborate behavior modification systems for teachers is also horrible. Teachers know how to teach. Let them do so!

    • suzanne

      nancypeske, I agree 100%. I’ve been against PBIS program, that has been in place for two years in our district. It is Pavlovian. PBIS does not teach compassion it is conditional training. Children learning this trained behavior are going to have severe behavioral issues in adulthood. “But judge, I couldn’t have killed her, but I only raped her. Don’t I get a sticker for that?”

  3. Elizabeth Sobel

    Teachers are expecting their gold stars but most will be told that they are just effective. Don’t want to reward too many or it looks bad for the administrators. In the end, the gold stars were just a sham!

  4. Susan Ploplys

    When my grandson’s first grade teacher in a private school in the LA area told me at the end of the day, with a smile, that the child had earned two gold stars; I asked her (with a straight face), “What color stars do you prefer?” She seemed taken aback by my comment but then hesitantly replied, “Pastels.” So I have been looking for pastel stars because she is doing an OK job and I would like to reward her. However, her system of behavior modification for children insults them so she does not get 5 out of 5.

    If we turn the star thing around, doesn’t it seem disrespectful? Studies show that if you reward someone (adult or child) for doing something “right” that they already are in the habit of doing, they quit doing it! Let’s rely on relationship building and parent/teacher teamwork with high expectations and, whenever possible, natural consequences for all behavior.

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