Teacher Lets Students Choose Controversial Reward for Achieving Goals

Melissa Knowles

How would you motivate elementary school kids to want to learn? I'm sure we could all think of creative ways, some that may even involve a sugary bribe. But the way one Idaho school teacher chose to motivate her students is causing some parents to question her judgment.

Summer Larsen, who teaches the fourth grade at Declo Elementary, is being criticized for the way she allowed students to behave after asking them to assess their reading goals. The students came up with incentives  to accomplish the goals. Students who met their reading goals would be allowed to draw on the faces of those who did not reach their goals. The students who fell short of their goals could choose to either skip recess or allow other students to draw on their faces. Of the 21 fourth-graders involved, nine did not meet the goals, six chose to be drawn on, and three chose to miss recess. Some of the students chose to draw goatees and mustaches on other students.

One parent said, "Not only was my son punished with bullying, but the other students were rewarded with bullying. They're being taught that bullying is OK."

Some parents didn't have a problem with what happened. "I'm just one of many parents who stand totally behind Summer Larsen and her teaching methods and what she does. We think she is a wonderful teacher, and we want to see her stay at Declo for many years," said Carla Christensen.

Gayle Smyer, the superintendent of the district where Larsen teaches, told KMVT reporter Andrew Reed that Larsen was put on temporary leave for a week, but was back teaching at the school as of Monday. Smyer said the incident is still being investigated and the school district takes parents concerns very seriously.

[Related: Teacher accused of bullying students with scented candle]

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