What does it look like to learn for Pizza's Sake?
This level of classroom culture is the way to move from beginner to intermediate. Please don't be offended if you're a twenty-year, veteran teacher who likes using rewards like this. By placing a rewards-based classroom as Phase 1 of classroom culture, it's because there are better facets of a classroom to emphasize, not because offering students treats is inherently wrong.
Before debriefing, lets take a look into a pizza-based classroom:
Learning for Pizza's Sake Debrief:
The problem with learning for pizza's sake is the fact that the learning itself is commonly accepted by the teacher and the students as something that no one wants to do. You hear teachers in these classrooms saying things like "well I don't want to be here correcting your papers either, but I'm here because they pay me!"
Now, it's possible that you're thinking that offering rewards for learning doesn't inherently mean that learning is accepted as bad, but I promise, that is the message you're sending students. If you offer students stickers to place next to questions they don't need to answer, or homework passes so that they don't need to do an assignment, what you're saying to them, and what they're hearing loud and clear, is that a lot of the questions you ask, and work you assign, is extra, and it will not negatively affect their learning if they don't do it. You're breeding a culture of dissent, and encouraging the question: "why do we have to do this?"
The worst part of the classroom in which learning occurs for pizza's sake is that the answer the teacher is offering to the question "why do we have to do this?" is "because if you do the work, you get the pizza."
You'll also notice that what teachers and students say in a pizza-driven culture always emphasizes the prize, not the work itself. I've used rewards-based methodology early in my career, and the most common question I got is "is this enough to get the reward," as opposed to "does this answer the question?" or "is this the best word to use in this sentence?"
It's also important to note that rewards-based systems offer immediate gratification (the ticket earned today) and generally short-term gratification (the weekly or monthly pizza.) Extended to a forty-week school year, or a forty-year teaching career, keeping up with constantly making new and interesting rewards and challenges to make sure to maintain enough novelty to keep students' attention is tedious at best.
The teachers I've known to have success with rewards-based systems keep them simple, and use them as part of a classroom culture that emphasizes one of the three other phases: teacher, students, or learning.
Recommendations for Creating a successful, Rewards-based Culture:
Next Steps: How do I move towards Learning for Teacher's Sake
So much of the writing published about education is published by people who don't teach. I figured it was time for a teacher to write about teaching. I've been proud to teach 8th-grade ELA in Dunkirk City Schools since 2007, and to serve at Fredonia State University as an adjunct professor, teaching educational technology since 2017.