A bulletin board at Mitchell Elementary in Philadelphia shows the number of days without a Fight involving Eighth Graders. Photo: Michael Bryant/Philly.com
At a high-poverty, low-performing K-8 school in Philadelphia, eighth graders don’t get into fights any more. Their principal promised to pay each Student $100 if they reach graduation without any fighting, reports Kristen A. Graham on Philly.com. If any of the 33 eighth graders break the peace, they all lose the money.
“They have a choice — to become the violence they see in their day-to-day lives, or to be peaceful models for our school and our community,” said Stephanie Andrewlevich, principal of Mitchell Elementary. She’s put up her own money, but hopes a sponsor will cover the rewards.
. . . at first; the students were motivated by the money.
“They’d tell each other, ‘Don’t mess up my $100!,’ when there was a problem in the hallway and it seemed like a fight might happen,” the principal said.
But as the weeks went on, the eighth-graders internalized the message. No one has forgotten it, but staff rarely hear the students mention the cash these days.
There are daily reminders: It’s day 50! It’s day 63! There’s a buzz in the building, a movement. Eighth graders conduct peer-mediation sessions with younger students, and the school will soon open its “Peaceful Place,” a room for students to cool down and practice conflict-resolution techniques.
Eight percent of the eighth-graders have been suspended so far this year, down from 17 percent at the same point last year and 21 percent in 2016, reports Graham.
Zakiya Barnes-Wiggins “was always trying to fight somebody,” she told the reporter. “But now, I don’t use my hands. I talk about it. And it’s better this way — our teachers can teach more.”
Bribing students to behave sounds awful. But . . . what if it’s the only way to get their attention?
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