The Day Before Thanksgiving

The day before Thanksgiving was surprisingly easy. It didn't have much of the chaos or hyperactivity from the kids that I've seen on most Fridays or on Halloween. The only real misbehavior was of my own creation.

Two weeks ago I announced I was going to have an exclusive Thanksgiving lunch. I didn't want to go to the trouble of having a class party so I figured I would use the idea of a colleague of hosting a private party in my classroom during lunch. I explained that 10 of the students who were on their best behavior and displayed their best effort would be invited to join me for a Thanksgiving lunch of KFC (I know not the best choice in the era of childhood obesity).

So, Wednesday finally came and I passed out 13 (I couldn't narrow it down further) invitations that said:

Dear Student X,

Thank you for your continued effort, respect and good behavior. Please join me for a Thanksgiving lunch at 12pm in room XXX. I will pick you up from the auditorium.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Mr. B

It all seemed like a good idea. I was getting great behavior out of some of the worst behaved kids including the class clown Gary Coleman Junior (GCJ). But what I didn't anticipate was that because of absences on the day before Thanksgiving, the 13 students who were invited outnumbered the 9 students who weren't. And by rewarding GCJ for short-term improvement I sent a confusing message to a lot of kids, especially the ones left on the outside of the party.

I don't regret having the party or requiring that students earn and invitation. But I should have been stricter about who I invited to come and kept it to 8-10 students. I don't mind having hurt the feelings of some of the students who didn't earn invitations. They didn't deserve it. But there were definitely a couple of students who deserved to come as much as or more than GCJ. Instead of a simply rewarding good behavior I sent mixed messages and created alienation and resentment within my classroom.

When I picked up the remaining students they were bouncing off the walls and very deliberately trying to misbehave. I wasn't even angry, because I knew that I was reaping exactly what I'd sown. Luckily the afternoon had a diversion of another classroom joining mine for a joint-lesson, so eventually everything settled down. I can only hope things will be forgotten by the time Monday rolls around.


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