Dear Kindergarten Teacher,
My son came home very upset on Wednesday and it lasted through bedtime. He’s told me that everyone but a few kids, including him, received 4 reward stickers. He said he wasn’t talking when they were given out and he isn’t allowed to ask you about stickers or he’d “get in trouble.” It seems that giving many students the large reward of 4 stickers is pretty obviously a punishment for those that didn’t receive them.
My son has had a rough start to school emotionally and has regularly not wanted to come. As I told you in my email and at our conference, it’s been only two and a half weeks since he’s actually been fairly happy to come to school. All because of a fun science experiment and because he’s had the chance to connect more with you as a person. After last night I feel like we are back to square one. Wednesday night in bed he asked me to tell you he moved so that he never has to come back.
We don’t use rewards in our family because we are working really hard to help our children develop intrinsic motivation and to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. There is a lot of research available to support our beliefs in this regard. I know you said at curriculum night that you don’t believe 5 and 6-year olds will make the right choices without rewards, but research doesn’t agree. I’m linking a couple articles that are well-sourced with research articles noted. http://www.alfiekohn.org/
Obviously, I’d love to see you do away with rewards all together, as they are truly just the other side of the coin from punishment. Kids are smart and they know that. But I mostly want you to know that what happens at school has long-lasting impact at home. Even if his perception isn’t 100% what happened, it is still what happened to him, and illustrates another reason why rewards are a slippery slope. My son’s school day negatively impacted the rest of the day for him (and us as a family), and the next morning was not much better. For a child who, according to you, understands and follows the rules, that seems like a very harsh punishment.
I know you are concerned that they learn self-control and to work independently. But my goals are different. I want my son to further develop his love of learning and learn to appreciate being part of a school community. I want him to learn that school is an enjoyable place to be, because without that how can it be expected that kids will want to be engaged, active participants? I want him to know that his teacher is a person he can go to for help. I’d really love to work with you to achieve those goals.
A concerned parent
A few other resources if you’re interested :