Brother, can you spare a dime?19291930Brother, can you spare a dime?"
That song was mournful, yet hopeful for denizens of the street corner down-on-your-luck soup kitchens, where you might meet your neighbor -- or your former boss. It didnt matter whether you were once a blue-collar or white-collar worker. Joblessness was the same, no matter what your former station in life might have been.
Now, almost eighty years have passed, and there is a fear that that past might resurface. Now, a dime cant buy much -- not a gum ball, a piece of taffy, or even a few minutes on a parking meter. When we see a dime on the ground, we often pass by. In my classroom, however, a dime buys a chance for my students to make a difference in the world.
I was tired of seeing dollar-store trinkets stepped on in the hallway or tossed in the bottom a locker and forgotten. I wanted my students to feel the rewards for positive behavior that come from within. The positive behavior program I implemented in my fourth grade classroom, centers on developing students social action and awareness.
I started the day with a meeting to introduce my reward system." From now on, I told my students, instead of giving out prizes or filling a jar with marbles to win free time" or extra recess, we would work toward filling a jar with 100 dimes, which we would then donate to charity. The response from the students was positive, although some were confused by a reward system they had never experienced before.
First, we brainstormed ways in which the entire class might be recognized for positive behavior that was goal oriented, such as 100 percent of students handing in homework, or being recognized by other teachers for showing Respect, Responsibility, and being Ready to Learn (the Pond Road Middle School Positive Behavior Support Program). Each time one of the criteria was met, the class would earn a dime for charity." When the goal of 100 dimes was met, a donation would be sent to a charity.
For homework that night, students were asked to research a charity that was important to them. The next day, they shared their choices and the reasons for them. Tears filled my eyes as I listened. I would like to raise money for cancer research because my Pop Pop has cancer." I have a friend who has diabetes and she has to give herself a needle every day." I want to donate to the Stennis Foundation because one of our teachers daughters has MLD and may not live to be as old as we now are."
Success in education is often measured by a standardized test, but there arent any tests designed to measure how students feel about themselves after being actively involved in a program like this. The success of the program is measured is in their comments
I feel that the class is trying to find a cure for many illnesses. I think that our program will help find a cure."
I think its good because its like we are helping the sick and unwealthy (sic)."
We are putting smiles on peoples faces."
Its a good thing, because how we act affects other people."
Its a good idea because I will always remember it and it makes me listen more in class."
It is good because you do good to feel good."
We are putting smiles on people's faces."
Its a good thing because how we act affects other people and helps people that need money."
I feel involved and proud to do Dimes for Charity because helping others is one of my favorite forms of helping. I also think we shouldnt hold that good feeling to ourselves and tell other classes about it so that can try doing Dimes for Charity also."
I feel that Dimes for Charity is one of the most amazing things in our classroom because it feels good to help others."
Its good that we are helping others and we should continue to do good deeds."
Q. Who contributes the dimes that are put in the jar?
A. I contribute the dimes, but many parents have offered to also contribute dimes. My son, who is also a teacher, was so impressed with the students response that he offered to match each donation.
Q How do you choose which of the childrens charities to contribute to? A. Each student in the class chooses a charity that is important to him or her and explains why it is important. The charities usually are ones that directly affect students, such as an illness of a friend or loved one. Each childs charity is chosen for a donation during the year.
Q. What charities have you contributed to so far?
A. The charities include
Q. How often do you make donations?
A. When students are recognized for positive behavior or acts of kindness, a dime is put in the jar. When 100 dimes are collected, a check is sent to the selected charity, and another charity is chosen (from a hat).
Q. Do you have lesson plans to accompany the Dimes for Charity program?
A. Yes, I have lesson plans. The program was an outgrowth of a unit I developed about disability awareness. I received a grant from the Robbinsville Education Foundation called, Achieving Awareness of Learning Disabilities through the Language Arts Curriculum." Some of the plans make students aware through hands-on activities as simulations. We also read trade books; had a visit from an author with a learning disability who was told as a child that he would never read; and had a visit from a dog that was raised to be a helping dog for an autistic child in Australia. Students also wrote and published their own hard-cover books from the publishing company Studentales. Those books were financed by the grant and were on display at Robbinsville Community Day, the Robbinsville Township Night Out, and at the 2009 Spring Conference of the National Writing Project at Rider University. They are now part of our classroom library and have been used by other fourth grade classrooms to make students more aware of learning disabilities.
Q. Do you plan to do this again this year?
A. I plan to do it every year as long as I teach.
Dimes for Charity has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my teaching career. It has demonstrated what can happen when children believe in the power of doing the right thing." At a time when the press highlights how bad our children are," it reaffirms my passion for teaching and my belief that children want to do their best, not just for material rewards and awards, but to benefit mankind. After all, isnt that why we wanted to become teachers?