Sticker Shock


It’s a fine line between bribery and motivation, but if it weren’t for classroom reward stickers, teaching little kids would be a whole lot tougher. More than just a great way to get kids to turn in homework or bring their books, stickers are also great time wasters (I believe actual teachers prefer the term “fillers”). If a lesson comes up a little short, I can easily burn off ten minutes by letting them choose which sticker they get to take home. It’s mystifying as to how consumed students get when it comes time to collect their stickers at the end of class – I’m quite sure I can actually hear their brains humming with excitement. And while I still haven’t figured out the exact criteria they use to make their final selection, I’m pretty sure the inner monologue might sound something like this: “Do I want the red one with the yellow smiley face on it, or the yellow one with the red smiley face on it? Wait, what’s that?! A green one with a white smiley face on it! Oh dear lord, please don’t let me blow this…If I pick the wrong one my life will be ruined. Remember last time when I picked the purple one with blue smiley face on it? Nap time was ruined for like 3 weeks!”

To me it’s really quite amazing how jazzed up kids can get about a circular piece of paper with a light adhesive on the back. Really if you think about it, it must be the shape, because you don’t see people getting that excited over stamps. That’s because they’re square – and only squares buy squares! If the Post Master General would pull his head out of his ass for once in his life and trim off the edges, Americans wouldn’t have to pay God-knows-what to mail a damn letter. As an aside, I’m not quite sure what the Post Master General does exactly, but I feel like more people should be outraged with him.

More than just mild form of bribery, stickers also serve as a reminder – a reminder of what it means to be a kid, to live in the all-consuming present, and to find great pleasure in simple things. There was a time when I too was like that, when a sticker from the doctor could magically make the pain of a booster shot disappear, or a pack of sugarless gum could somehow make the trip to the dentist seem worth it. Of course, that was also probably around the same time when I refused to wear pants to school or believed that an inflatable gorilla on top of the Space Needle would descend down upon my family’s VW Vanagon and eat us alive. I had my reasons, but I digress. The point is, while adults are busy planning for the future, kids are enjoying the moment, and in the end, it’s the moments that matter – it’s the moments that stick with us, kinda like the blue one – the one with the white smiley face on it.


2 responses to “Sticker Shock

  1. Love the post! I was in Japan 2004-2005 teaching kids and adult lessons for the now extinct Nova. Your blog reminds me of some of the fun times I had. Usually, I didn’t have stickers and had to draw happy faces with different colored crayons or pencils on their workbook pages. The kids were cute and appreciated them, but the politics… they definitely noticed when I drew some larger than others.
    P.S. Your father forwarded me to your blog 🙂

  2. Mom here. My son goes next week and I’m sending along some packs that I found for 25-50cents. They’re at the consulate today for the ftf interview and visa.

    Stickers are nice why to end a lesson, with the teacher writing the colors on the board, and having each kid ask for a favorite color. (Notice I said ‘a’ favorite, they’ll have to go to their 2nd choice when all the blues run out;) Allowing them to pick is also a way they can decide for themselves which word they’d like to say out loud (easiest for them) and not embarrass themselves in front of the class–save face. Even the super shy ones can just point if they have to. But they’ll all be loving it when they get one.

    Too, with stickers you can just give random ones away at odd times just to make sure they’re all getting a share. Not just the winners all the time. For being a good kid, not just best english speaker. Competitions should include tests of all skills, and vary from one to another cause not everyone is good at the same thing. Nurture the talents they show and success will come one way or the other.

    SOS, I’ve added you to my bloglist because this is a good site for info for Moms and Dads. Just found you googling, and I’m loving it!


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