Do You Bribe Your Students?

capt64397cd3ad12483a9f63dbe118299d55bribing_kids_cx103.jpgReading about how parents are apparently starting to feel they’ve overindulged their children via bribery, I wondered – do we as EFL teachers bribe our students, even the adult ones?

Sometimes I think I do. It may just be a matter of doing something fun (still useful, but fun) after a longer or more intensive activity, but there are different opinions on what counts as “giving in” to student “demands” as well as how this impacts expectations for future learning experiences and, well, future teachers. If one teacher bends over backwards to indulge students, will that make things harder for the next? Or is that bending over backwards exactly what modern EFL methods involve – and are teachers who resent this simply a little “work shy”?

Perhaps bribery is the wrong word – a bribe, after all, means offering an incentive to get someone to engage in something illegal or wrong; this seems more like excessive rewarding or advance positive reinforcement.

When I had some discipline problems with the kids group I taught a while ago, a supervisor suggested inventing a team system, and ongoing competition of sorts, with points and prizes, to encourage good behavior and reward hard work.

In theory, it was a great idea, and I imagine teachers with years of experience would have perfected it. I personally found it ridiculously complex to come up with a motivating and fair system for a group I taught three hours a week. My guess is that ten or twenty years ago – or perhaps today but in a different classroom – the students would have been too afraid of the teacher to act out or avoid homework. I certainly don’t think fear is a good way to motivate students, but just find it notable that there is such a difference.

Are these forms of motivating excessive, and are they common in EFL today?