Education, entertainment, Health & Wellbeing, Neurodiversity, Technology

Bribing Teenagers and Dragonfly Brain

The year has only just started and I’m already finding it difficult to turn my work brain off. Whenever I have a significant shift in my schedule, I struggle to adjust for a while. Often, a week or two (or three) is spent in limbo. Going back to school is a prime example. Does anyone else get this? It’s probably a neurodiverse thing. So, as per ujj, my sleep has gone whack, and I have to tread super carefully so as not to overdo it and burn out before the school year has properly kicked off.

How, though? Brain fizzes with ideas and chatters and flits around like a mother-fucking dragonfly. You know dragonflies?

Dragonfly Aint GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
The frog is lesson planning and its’ tongue is the term ahead

In spite of the sleep deprivation and the dizziness of a 45+ hour week, I’m having a blast.

me, all day everyday

20/2/22 Update: as I write this, it’s not quite midnight. This is fine, except I put myself to bed at a respectable 10.25pm, after reading for 30 minutes like a good, responsible adult. How is that fair? More time to write, I suppose. I’ve contemplated cleaning the bathroom but I know that’s far too raucous for my flatmates and would not want to disturb their slumbers.

Bribing Teenagers

My student are heck’n cool – also as per ujj. After reflecting on last year, I have dreamt up a system to incentivise goal-setting, high attendance and embodying our school values. I’ve been transparent with my rangatahi: that they are my guinea pigs, I am literally bribing them, and we’re trialling this for a term to see how it goes.

In short, I’ve stolen a concept from my sister’s high school Economics teacher, who taught financial principles through a real-life simulation of an in-class economy. Students got paid in shekels, made decisions about whether to buy or rent their desks, and could buy lollies and other prized items at certain times – bearing in mind their ever-fluctuating price points due to supply and demand. I have adapted this model to fit both the needs of my ākonga and our school’s special character.

Claiming My Role as Dictator

My version is not nearly as complex or financial literacy-based, but it retains the core idea. Love us some sweet sweet capitalistic overtones. My students have very enthusiastically bought 😉 into it. Even the senior students, who I thought might find it a bit juvenile, are on board.

The concept is simple: our currency is shells (or should I say Shell$) – yes, literal sea shells I collected from the shore. They earn between 1-5 shells for various achievements they attain, based on the difficulty, effort and time spent doing it. They then “bank” these in their own decorated jar for later use. When they have saved up enough, they can purchase rewards like mini chocolate bars, 15 minutes of non-school related screen time, fidget toys, plushies, and anything else I know they will be into that I can get relatively cheaply.

I know it’s not ideal – I have been upfront and explained that this is extrinsic motivation. The ultimate goal is for students to be intrinsically motivated, but let’s be real. If you teach Gen Zed-ers and Gen Alphas, you know that is a rare trait. It’s not an easy thing for anyone to exercise, let alone teenagers and children who have been raised on social media, bombarded with instantaneous feedback from their devices, and hard-wired to seek out that sweet dopamine hit that just wasn’t as easy to come by pre-smartphone. I hella feel for these kids.

I know that this idea is not without its drawbacks. I will keep monitoring and tweaking throughout the process, but so far, so good.

Despite the difficulty maintaining that work life balance, and the stress wrapped up in being a high school teacher, I can confidently say that I love my job. I recognise how lucky I am to be able to say that and mean it.

Where are my fellow kaiako (teachers) at? I would love to get in on some WordPress teacher blogs, especially you language teachers!

Hei konā, e hoa mā!


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