Positive Reinforcement is not Just About Shaping Behavior

While the majority of students were already in line to head to their next class, I turned to notice that one of my students was still sitting at his machine working. Throughout the weeks, this student has frequently been off-task and required on-going support. Now he was diligently working all period and didn’t want to stop.

I knew that it was important to reinforce this behavior. I walked over and let him know that I was impressed with his efforts during today’s class. He smiled!

Then, he turned to me and said, “This is my favorite class!”
Now I was smiling too!

My day just got brighter. The stress created by the three machines that did not login properly and were preventing my students from saving their work seemed like a tiny annoyance. The weird error message that Computer 7 displayed on start-up was all but forgotten. I was so pleased!

My goal was to shape behavior using positive reinforcement. I wanted my student to use class time wisely and stay focused throughout the period. What I received back was so unexpected and wonderful. It was a reminder of why I chose education as a career.

I began to think about praise and how words of encouragement can make everything seem better. My mind wandered to last week. I was teaching the last period of the day on Friday. Computer class was right after gym. To say the least, the students were “wired”. It was difficult to keep everyone focused. By the end of class, I breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that the period was over. Just then, a girl walked into the computer lab. She needed help transferring her school work onto her flash drive. I coached her through the task.

When I was finished she said, “Thank you. You just saved my life!” I laughed. Her expression of gratitude made me feel fantastic (a bit like a super hero). No longer did I feel tired. I was instantly recharged.

These experiences remind me that positive reinforcement is not just about shaping behavior or training someone to have a particular skill set. It is about making someone feel great.

Improve the mood in your classroom. Take a minute to praise your students, celebrate their achievements, and thank them for their efforts. It will make everyone’s day brighter.

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