To the delight of many students, principals nationwide are submitting to the silly, outlandish, and sometimes embarrassing activities that they promised if students reached a predetermined goal. Shaving or dyeing their hair, eating worms, spending time on the school’s roof, getting a pie (or two) in the face, and sitting in dunk tank are among some of the ideas that principals and their students have come up with.

The goals principals give their students vary from surpassing a fundraising goal to doing well on state exams. “It’s important to have fun at school as well as work really hard,” said principal Candy McCarthy, who recently spent five hours atop her school for her students. “It motivates [the students]. It’s just something silly and crazy,” she added

McCarthy certainly is not alone. What other ideas have you come up with over the years to motivate your students? What are the funniest you’ve heard or read about?

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

I think you have hit on most of the common ones. Once as a middle school assistant principal, I kissed a pig. (The pig probably wondered why it was being punished.) For the life of me, I can't remember what the situation was, but I will never forget the pig.

Another that comes to mind is something done by Michael Barber, Assistant Superintendent for Pell City (Alabama) Schools. When he was principal of Iola Roberts Elementary in the same school system, Mike jumped out of an airplane after his kids had achieved whatever goal had been set. Luckily, the chute worked!

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

Agreed... as a basketball coach I agreed to let the players dye my hair the school colors if they could win a certain number of games. I also allowed students to straighten my hair if they met the requirements for a course I was teaching. Both seemed to work.

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

My Elementary Principal promised to kiss a calf if the students did well on their tests. They did and she did!
I hope I can be as creative and motivating when I become a principal.

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

I believe that students love these outlandish activities because it shows a different perspective and side of a principal. Being able to show this side to students creates a different bond that allows a principal to be more approachable to students.

A few activities that were not listed that I have heard of include: sitting on the school roof for a day, wearing pj's to school and bringing in your bed to stay in all day, and to encourage students to show for PSSA testing, students were given tickets to a local water park.

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

While I agree that we must come up with more creative ways to motivate our students, I have to wonder what message all of these rewards, particularly few-strings-attached tickets to a water park, are sending to our students. By crafting some type of reward for everything our students do, are we teaching them to be expectant instead of grateful? I think it's okay to attach small rewards while still emphasizing the instrinsic feelings associated with the act. I was especially surprised to read about the students who received water park tickets just for showing up for PSSA. The reward had no association with how students performed. Perhaps I am naive in my understanding, but I don't see how this practice of rewards will motivate our students as lifelong learners.

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

I agree that motivation is the key to promoting success. Unfortunately, I am not sure that this motivation actually motivates the students to really "try" on these tests -regardless of the motivation. Our principal offered late arrival time or early dismissal time for this years 11th grade PSSA test group. I really wonder how many took the test seriously. The scores will reveal that this summer. I also wonder how many will arrive late or leave early anyway!

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

I've never personally done anything extreme, but I do know of a high school principal who once dressed up as a "greaser" from the fifties and sang at the end-of-the-year assembly in order to motivate his students. The kids absolutely loved it.
I think as a principal, you can promote fun without losing your respectability. You should be careful that what you choose to do as a motivator doesn't backfire and make you seem like an idiot. Choose wisely.

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

Principals that I know have been human ice cream sundaes where each class gets to put some sort of 'topping' on the principal as he/she sits in a kiddie pool! Also a human pizza with the same idea except pizza toppings instead of ice cream toppings. Also being duct taped to a wall. These are just fun ways to build relationships with students and letting them know we are human too!

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

My elementary building principal did both the pie in the face activity and the dunking booth as a way of motivating students to take part in a school wide fund raiser. It worked and the kids loved it. As silly as the activities were, I know that those are the moments the kids will remember as they move on to secondary education. It was a spirit building activity and connected the school in a very unique way. It also made the principal seem more real to the kids and connected him to them in a way that made a lasting impression!

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

In an elementary/middle combined school where I once taught, the principal actually got the students excited about taking state tests. She did not offer them rewards such as the ones mentioned, but instead she created an atmosphere where the kids were actually "pumped up" to take the test. She had t-shirts made for them to wear on test day, energizing music played throughout the building before test time each day, and had the lower grades "adopt" a group of test takers to provide ongoing support and encouragement. I have never seen students so excited to take state tests the way these kids were. I hope to implement something like this into my own school.

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

When I taught in Georgia, we did a reading challenge every year. The first year, my principal got in the dunk tank to be dunked by all the top readers. The second year, she dressed in her leather, got on the back of a motorcycle and rode around the parking lot in a bike caravan!! That was fun!!

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

I think that it is important to keep the end result in mind when we look at these stunts. If the end result is worth a little craziness or silliness then it is well worth the price. In my school the students love when the principal offered to take a pie in the face if x amount of money was raised for the food bank and were excited to find out which homeroom raised the most money and was elected to pie him. It gave them a goal to strive for and made the collection fun. With the increased pressure of standardized test in our schools, what can it hurt to use the crazy stunts preformed by our teachers and principals to get kids focused and working towards a goal.

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

I had gravy poured all over me in order to motivate students for our annual food drive. Other 'stunts' in previous years were dressing like a chicken and did the chicken dance at an assembly. Colored and spiked my hair. All of which was effective. We reached our goal every year. Plus we all had a lot of fun!!!

re: Doing Whatever It Takes

We had a principal jump out of an airplane. I agree with one of the respondents - choose wisely because you could lose your credibility. Luckily no one was injuried in the stunt and the students enjoyed it. A recent racing car in parade though reminds us that we never know when an accident is going to happen. So please choose carefully.

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