October 9, 2008

Students Get Perks for Doing Right Thing


How do you encourage middle school students to be kind and courteous? At the Martin J. Ryerson Middle School in Ringwood, administrators are looking to "catch" students who hand in their homework every day, pick up after themselves or do what their teachers ask.

Students who are "caught doing the right thing" can win gift certificates or homework passes or get extra points on a test. The initiative is in its second year.

"We're not talking about anything extraordinary, just doing what you've been taught by your parents," said Vice Principal Merry Nichols. "Every person has a chance to win. One student last year said 'this is probably the only time I'll have my name up on a poster for something good.' "

Indeed, in this program, any student can be recognized for doing such mundane things as waiting patiently in line, respecting school property or not getting out of his seat during lunch.

John Schaffer, 12, won a $5 gift certificate for doing just that. The seventh-grader said, "I just glue myself to my seat" every day instead of getting up to sit with other people.

"Well, if you get caught doing that, you get detention and if I get detention, my parents will take away my video games," John explained. "It's just not worth it.

"But this whole 'doing the right thing' is really good because it's trying to get people to do something nice for others," John said.

Students are handed coupons by teachers, administrators, custodians, lunch aides -- anyone who sees them behaving well.

Once a month, the students turn in all their coupons, and two are picked from each grade -- sixth, seventh, and eighth.

Each winner receives a $5 gift certificate to area stores. The program is funded through the school's Parent-Teacher Organization.

Since chances of winning are slim -- there were 50 coupons for seventh-graders and nearly 400 for sixth-graders in September - there is another incentive. Every student with a coupon gets a "vice principal" certificate that is redeemable for one of three things: a no-homework coupon, one-day-late homework pass or five points added to a test score.

"I really got my coupon accidentally," said Devon Gardiner, the other seventh-grade winner. "I helped my teacher cut out little letter 'e's that we needed for our lab and she handed me one. I wasn't even thinking about this when I did it.

"You get these when you're really just doing the right thing, nothing special," Devon said.


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