Making Change and the Circle of Courage

November 20, 2012

Is it possible to blend a token economy system and the Circle of Courage?  They seem at polar opposites, and yet…consider this. In the Long Pond Classroom, as part of the school-wide token economy system, we pay coins, plastic versions of US money, for participation points as we go along. We try to pay at the end of each class, which allows for two outcomes.

  • 1. Students get immediate feedback about the quality of their participation, and 
  • 2. Students amass lots of change which then needs to be converted into look-alike dollars to spend at the school store.  

This method of payment leads students to Mastery over their behavior and being able to earn participation points, as well as Mastery in math skills, being able to identify and count coins to change into dollars.  Once the money has been paid to students, it becomes their responsibility to keep track of it.  It is their job to put their money in their money pouches inside their 3-ring binders in their desks. Staff does not repay if the money is lost. At the beginning or end of the day, during home room, students can make change for higher value coins or bills.  This encourages students to be independent and take charge of their own money.  Students are also able to save toward certain desired and more expensive items, like DVDs or MP3 players.

Generosity comes in because the students have money to give to others when they are moved to do so.  It has happened a number of times that a student is short a few dollars for something they have saved for over a period of time, and the other students in the class have all chipped in so that student has the money needed to make the purchase.  Individual students have also generously offered other students money to help them buy certain items from the school store.  Their generosity comes from a sense of belonging in the Long Pond Classroom and caring about the other students in the class.  The students’ generosity stretches beyond the money to the desire to help their classmates, especially wanting to encourage peers experiencing behavioral challenges. 

So, we find that a token economy system can be applied addressing the four growth areas in the Circle of Courage: Mastery, Independence, Generosity, and Belonging.

Submitted by:
Suzanne Requa-Trautz   

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
~Maya Angelou

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