Dear fellow teachers: Don’t wear the “Santa Cam.”

My fellow teachers,

We are here! The homestretch of December, just one more week and we are off for winter break! I plan on “traveling” to the couch and reading the whole time without the constant “Mr. Henderson!!” in my ear. I love my students dearly, but I am ready for some peace and quiet.

I have been wanting to write this post for a while because I saw this disturbing image on Facebook:

Look, I get it. We want our students to behave and be good people, but at what cost? This picture shows how deeply rooted this culture of “surveillance and shaming” is in our schools. This photo implicitly says “You should only behave because an imaginary figure who watches your every move will grant you with rewards.” Why are we as teachers handing over our classroom management to imaginary figures? Even elves on the shelves have turned into a staple of households and classrooms that I would argue force children into behaving for the sake of their name being reported to Santa Claus if they aren’t behaving. Take away the cuteness of the holidays and the idea of behaving for the “big man” and doing what you are told or suffer the consequences is an idea that reminds me of an oppressive regime. How on earth is this setting up our students for success?! It makes me angry that as teachers we think that students should behave for someone they have never seen/met, and yet we pass along the idea that they shouldn’t do well because it feels good, or even for the real people in their life like their teachers or family. Why do we continuously need to rely on outside and extrinsic motivators for our students to do well?

I urge you fellow teachers, to leave the elves on the shelves in the boxes, throw away the Santa Cam, and focus on love and relationships in your classrooms. Show your students that YOU care about them, and that REAL people in their school care about them. Will this next week be perfect? Probably not, I know mine won’t, but I will not resort to using fake, shameful devices to trick my students into doing well. I will use love, empathy, and care to finish out this semester strong, and I hope you join me.

– Jeremiah

P.S. I am attaching a free document from Pernille Ripp entitled “Common Misbehaviors and how we work with them“, from her book Passionate Learners. This is a wonderful guide to using care and love to help our students. (This file came from Routledge Publishing)

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