Students in High School are sometimes thirsty for recognition for having a good character

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Come on!  Be honest… you want one too,  right?!  This is the package a student will receive from me when I see distinguished behavior from them.  I select one student per class per week to acknowledge and I do so in a very discreet way.  I simply walk over to their seat while everyone is busy working on something, place it in front of them, smile, and shake their hand.  Sometimes I’ll say something very quietly like “Good job.” or “Congratulations.”
I’ve been telling myself to do this kind of reward system for all my teaching career, (almost 15 years now, in high school mathematics).  This year I FINALLY figured out exactly what I wanted to do and exactly how to do it.  It’s working really well for me and the students and it’s not a lot of extra work. So the effort I put into it is easily more than worth the outcome from it. 
Students get a distinct pencil of somekind,  a homework pass (only one student has redeemed one so far), a lifesaver mint attached to a little business card sized message that reads, “You’re a lifesaver!”, a certificate specifying what they are being recognized for signed by me (I expect they show family and friends),  and a colorful slip referencing one of the Common Core Mathematical practices I’ve noticed they’ve consistently demonstrated.  I think it ties very well together with what I want from my students as young Mathematicians and also with what I want from them as responsible, caring people. In other words, I hope they continue to behave the way they’ve displayed FOREVER. 
I’m finding the sentiment helps the underclassmen transition better into more serious work because they REALLY want to do well overall, and some of the FUN is being sucked out of their day because of the stress that can bring.  Some students are better than others at gauging themselves and managing their emotional state without such a recognition. While others, I imagine, may not hear from others or themselves very often just how much they are appreciated. 
Even as an adult, when I get some level of thanks or results for doing the right thing, it really satisfies my drive and fuels me to work even harder.  In this generation’s current environment with instant feedback and automated interaction online with video game like some-what addictive stimulation, I’m finding students less motivated toward meaningful learning and meaningful tasks.  Part of the reasoning for that lack of drive is because it takes way longer than what they initially expect to get “somewhere” with it.  They don’t know how to keep themselves going and amidst the challenges they face,  they often give up. There can be a push from media and so-called “role models” to do the opposite of work hard, do the right thing, etc. 
I hope this small reward is enough to refocus a student in this kind of dilemma and I hope my contributions can keep the fire going in all of us,  especially myself.

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