It’s the same old song, with the same old meaning, and it’s still plain wrong [wasting $300,000 on positive motivation program]

by Ilene Poses

Testimony for Jan. 28, 2021


If you approve Action Item 16 which wastes $300,000 on positive motivation programs you will be doing :
(The Four Tops)
It’s the same old song, with the same old meaning, and it’s still plain wrong.

As a retired special education teacher I have used positive reinforcement throughout my entire teaching career. Every few years the school district rolled out another school wide discipline program that used behavior modification to improve school climate. Every teacher training program has at least one course on the principles of behavior modification so it is completely unnecessary to spend money on Motivating Systems, PBIS Rewards and Kickboard Inc. Every teacher can use an excel spreadsheet or another google program to organize a positive reinforcement program.

These programs will not help students develop thinking skills, empathy or address the trauma of the pandemic or other difficulties. The way to develop healing from trauma and develop a love of learning is through self expression. Reading and writing is about communication and so are the arts. Academics improve when students communicate their stories to teachers and counselors.

Nicholas Prosini, the superintendent of Voorheesville in upstate NY – who is an educator and not a politician in the field of education – explained (somewhat edited):
“When the children return to school, we will need to listen to them. Let their stories be told. They have endured a year that has no parallel in modern times. There is no assessment that applies to who they are or what they have learned. Remember, their brains did not go into hibernation during this year. Our job is to welcome them back and help them write that history.
I sincerely plead with my colleagues, to surrender the artificial constructs that measure achievement. Greet them with art supplies and writing materials, and music and dance and so many other avenues to help them express what has happened to them in their lives during this horrific year. Greet them with stories and books that will help them make sense of an upside-down world. They missed you. They did not miss the test prep. They did not miss the worksheets. They did not miss the homework. They missed you.
Resist the pressure from whatever ‘powers that be’ who are in a hurry to “fix” kids and make up for the “lost” time. The time was not lost, it was invested in surviving an historic period of time in their lives—in our lives. The children do not need to be fixed. They are not broken. They need to be heard. They need be given as many tools as we can provide to nurture resilience and help them adjust to a post pandemic world.”