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.