At my former school, we used to have two options for credit recovery for failing students.
The first ran two mornings a week for four months. There was a $50 fee for this option, an amount that was doable (especially with payment plans and scholarship options) for our low-income families, yet was also high enough to be significant.
The other option was summer school, four weeks of all-day classes in the heat of July. This choice was free.
For years, I taught under both programs. And, very early, a pattern began to emerge. Every year, the turn out for the few day or two of summer school would be tremendous – the classrooms barely able to contain the students. Yet every year, the numbers dropped exponentially until the class sizes were often in the single digits.
The morning program never started out with as many students (partly because the parents held out hope that their kid could still pull up his/her grade) yet every student that showed up on the first day stayed until the last.
There was another marked difference between the programs. In summer school, the students often acted as though they were biding their time. Many of them never asked a question, never completed an assignment and acted as if they were simply there to keep their desk company. In the morning program, however, the students wanted to learn. They brought in marked tests for clarification, they asked for help on homework and they worked hard even though the sun had yet to rise.
Frustrated during my third stint at summer school, I asked my administrator about this difference.
Her answer was simple.
“It’s the $50. They have buy-in.”
She went on to tell me that there used to be a fee for summer school and the shift in behavior only occurred once it was waved. She told me stories of morning kids on scholarship and how she learned the importance of charging every family something, even if it was only a few dollars. Once the family parted ways with their money, the program had value.
It was important to show up. It was important to try.
If we perceive that something has value, we appreciate it. We take care of it.
That lesson has stayed with me and I look for it in other areas.
Brock uses the idea of value to help him keep up with things. When he buys cheap sunglasses, they inevitably get lost or broken. But the pricier pair he purchased four years ago? Safe and snug in his car. They have value to him and so he takes care of them.
You can see it at play in those studies that pour cheap wine from expensive bottles while the more valued product spills from the bargain vessel. Every time, the tasters rate the wine based on the bottle. The labels speak of value, thus changing perception.
In my classes, I reward students for perfect scores on weekly quizzes. It’s not an easy goal to reach. When we have to work to achieve something, it is valuable and, perhaps more importantly, we believe we are worthy.
I see numerous examples every day of this economic principle in action – from Groupons to free Kindle downloads.
And then I look at my former marriage.
I loved him. I loved our marriage.
But I’m not sure I valued it.
I didn’t have to work for it. It was there.
I didn’t have to earn it. I credited luck rather than effort.
I believed it would always be there, whether I showed up every day or not.
I was filled with assumption more than appreciation.
It was easy.
Perhaps too easy.
I’ve learned from that mistake.
I’ve worked hard to get to where I am now.
I’ve paid dearly, in so many ways in the past few years.
I see the value.
And I appreciate it and take care of it every day.
I’m on the lifetime payment plan:)