Adolescent Behavior Theory 101

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There will be no more missing homework, forgotten pencils, or misplaced notebooks at Skyview Middle School in Oakdale, Minnesota, where Principal Tom Harrold has instituted a program to curb the number of students coming to class unprepared.

The program is simple but not without its detractors. Each student is given a log sheet. If students come to class prepared, their teacher stamps their log sheet accordingly. If the students come to class unprepared, they get a "oops" stamp. Students who accumulate six “oops??? stamps must stay after school for one hour to get what Principal Harrold describes as “the help they need.???

Don't look for this common sense approach to be taught in the neighborhood school of education. Harlan Hansen, an emeritus professor at the University of Minnesota’s College of Education, believes the program is off-target. “The key to classroom management is teaching a child how to behave, not expecting it,??? he said. “After getting a number of negatives, they live by that. They think, ‘Well, I’m so far behind, I don’t care anymore.’??? Hansen continues that the program is cumbersome and requires paperwork that takes time away from teaching.

Hooey. A discussion of operant conditioning and a cost-benefit analysis are hardly needed to examine this simple and effective program. Principal Harrold comments that Skyview teachers and parents are happy with the program and say it’s working extremely well. And who’d a thunk that middle school kids could get so motivated by stamps?