The Importance of Positive Reinforcement

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There’s two types of people in this world. There’s people who know the craic, and then there’s the people that don’t. The people who know the craic will get along way better than those who haven’t the faintest clue of what the craic is. Often times those who know the craic can take advantage of those who don’t know the craic. Those who know the craic, if they’re careful, can get away with damn near anything.

I’ve been thinking about school recently which in all fairness should be a series all in itself. These memories are…not fun. When they pop up I can’t push them away. I live through it all again, can smell the stench of the place. It feels like I’m in a fox hole that’s collapsing in on itself.

I’ve given my opinion on the state of education, which for those who can’t be bothered to read, is bad. Very bad. Then again, what can you expect from a system whose only job is to keep teenagers off the job market long enough so that the unemployment stats aren’t so low.

I didn’t learn much at school. But I learnt what the craic was. If you’re reading this, I’ll save you a few years of emotional turmoil and summarise it for you.

I didn’t like school. Took me far longer than I’m proud to admit to adapt to…whatever the hell that place that was. Like one minute I was in P7 and everyone was relatively innocent and the next I’m in first year and everyone is perverted beyond repair. At that age you’ve no idea who you are, you’re easily influenced, people say fucked up shit to you once and it’ll stay with you for the rest of your life.

Second year wasn’t any better. Arguably, worse. My form teacher didn’t like me much- which was understandable, I was a wee spoiled cunt. Type a cunt that deserved half the grief he got. But this teacher didn’t like me- and I mean really didn’t like me.

He’d always take every opportunity to make me feel pure awkward and stupid and bad about myself. There’s this one day I came back from lunch and lunch of course was a gruelling process back then. There’d have been well over a thousand students at this shit hole, 90% of them would be getting lunch from the canteen.

You’d be standing in line like you were waiting for food in Soviet Russia. But instead of standing in line with your malnourished countrymen, you’re squished up against a bunch of smelly teenagers- all of whom are bigger than you. They give you a good bit of grief, too.

Lunch was bad on most days. One day it was particularly bad. Whole lasted for about 42 minutes, by the time I got food the bell had rung- twice. I was late for registration by about twelve odd minutes. The walk back was gruelling- the place was barren. Just me and the crows. Felt like there was a hundred eyes watching me cross that concrete monstrosity.

I get back to class and to be honest I can’t remember exactly what I was expecting- grief or understanding, it didn’t matter. What I wasn’t expecting was exactly what would happen next.

I come in to class, pure apologetic. Everyone’s watching me. I stand there for a moment in silence as the teacher just…stares at me. He tells me to go outside and do that again. I go out, come in and act pure apologetic- again. He tells me to do it again- about half a dozen more times.

Eventually he has the sense to come out the door with me. He gives me a little grief and explains that he understands why I was late. It’s just that he took issue with…how I came in the room? Like I didn’t knock right or didn’t say the right thing or….? I don’t fucking know. It was a bunch of horse shit.

This cunt humiliated me in front of my class- most of whom thought I was a pure weirdo already- all cause I knocked the fucking door wrong.

There’s another case with this exact same teacher, happened a few months down the line. I ask if I can go to the toilet and he gives me a bit of grief- say’s that I should ask “May I go to the toilet?” like he’s an illiterate nonce who doesn’t know what I fucking meant in the first place.

Anyway, I get up and as he heads into the storage room I flip him off. Everyone’s laughing and all seems good. Problem is of course this class of mine is packed to the brim with touts and when I’m halfway down the stairway- I hear footsteps behind me. Teacher calls my name, I stop in my paces and he gives me a bit of grief.

To be an effective teacher you need two things- first being is a talent at, well, teaching. The other is respect. First few years of your career you’ll get while abuse by students. You need to harden up, possess a fury where boys would be feared of you. If you shout, there should be some cunt pissing himself.

There’s a few teachers I met like that. This boy was one of them. He had a quiet fury, masked under layers of decency and politeness. He gave me some grief about how insulting what I had just done was. When I come back from the piss he sends me off to another room to do work.

I was weak back then. I was crying like a spoilt little cunt. I’d yet to learn the craic. That when you’re in school, you operate by prison rules. Meaning you don’t show weakness or remorse- you don’t give anyone anything that they could use against you. They see fat where there should be muscle, the wolves will tear you to shreds.

By the end of those seven years I was dead inside. I’d grown a resentment for authority. If you took me when I was leaving school and placed me in the shoes of that fat wee second year, I’d have gotten along just fine. Because I leaned how to make most people like me.

There’s a presumed virtue in being quiet and polite. People think you’re a nice guy, even though you’re most likely a rat bastard. Took me a few years to learn that. The craic being that teachers have enough grief to deal with. They get paid fuck all and have to deal with a bunch of sweaty cunts who act the lad-mostly because they just don’t want to be there, partly because they’re just cunts. So if you’re quiet, polite, and do the bare minimum of work- you’ll quickly become their favourite student.

By that point you can get away with things that most other students wouldn’t. You can show up late, not do work and if you’re careful- you can even fuck about. When some of the unruly students catch on and say how you can get away with anything- no one listens to them. Because they tarnished their reputation by being a cunt.

I met only one boy at that school who knew the craic. That if you’re quiet, polite and do the bare minimum- you can get away with a lot of things. We’d a respect for each-other. Hung about outside our classes with the other loners- cause neither of us valued the fake friends that come with Pub Talk, we mostly just stood in silence.

By the time I was leaving school I’d grown to despise the institution. I either hated most people or was indifferent. I had a good deal of anger locked away inside of me, like a lead ball full of battery acid. In my final year I was skipping classes to go out to the town and when I was eventually caught- I was so dead inside that I couldn’t care less about what they had to say.

But again, I was quiet and polite and did the bare minimum- so I got away with it.

You’d think I hate that teacher in second year, by the way I talk about him. I don’t- I actually like him a great deal. He’s a good guy. Community man, friendly, very charitable- he handles the annual school trip to Tanzania and is fluent in Swahili. Most of all he taught me one of the greatest lessons I got from that shit hole; the importance of positive reinforcement.

I’ll give you an example. Around fourth year our form teacher went about collecting money for Trócaire. She got a total of about £1.50, most of which was in 2p’s. This was out of a class of twenty-six, mind you. At the end of it, she gave us all a good bit of grief for being greedy and spoilt and all kinds of vices.

She demanded that we come in with money for donation. Two weeks later, that total came to about £2.50. Most of which was in 1p’s. She didn’t like that, not one bit. She didn’t have enough sense to realise that most of didn’t have jobs, or were given pocket money. She didn’t realise that the little money we had was exclusively for lunch and that half of us came from poorer backgrounds meaning we had to get free school meals. She didn’t care. She just wanted the moral high-ground. Anyone could think themselves a saint if they see a world of sinners.

The teacher I had in second year knew the craic. Understood that we couldn’t hand over money we didn’t have. But instead of scolding us for giving over copper coins, he praised us. Saying that every little helps and unlike the other teacher, he actually knew what he was talking about. He broke down what the money we had collected would do for people- like we were at a rate that we could buy a goat in East Africa. Wild.

By seeing that we were actually making a difference, more people donated. Because they felt good about themselves. Unlike the other method, which just led to resentment. The importance of positive reinforcement is that it incentivises people to be their best selves.

If your workers resent coming into work, if they feel like they’d rather die than carry on working- that will negatively effect their productivity. Meaning your workplace will ultimately suffer in regards to both quality of service and overall profit.

You want to know the craic? It’s not difficult being nice. In fact you could argue that it’s way harder to be an ass-hole – cause you’re going out of your way to upset people.

It doesn’t take much to ensure a healthy work-space. Just be polite, tell people when they’re doing a good job. Thank them for completing tasks- hell, thank them for showing up at all. When they fuck up, feel free to correct them- but just don’t be a cunt about it. Be respectful, be kind, be polite…that’s it. That’s the bare minimum.

I’ve heard of Managers at McDonald’s who have this star system. Like in school when you do a good job they put a star sticker on a sheer that has your name and other classmates on it. They essentially do that. So when an employee does a good job, they put a little star sticker by their name.

The stars mean literally nothing. You don’t get a raise if you get a fuck ton of stars. But for some reason, people don’t care. They’ll work harder just to get these meaningless stars- because they like the positive reinforcement.

When I had the privilege of directing projects back at tech, I always tried to go out of my way to be nice to the crew and actors. Like if I were to ask the camera operator to adjust the camera, I’d tell them that they did a great job immediately after and would thank them.

Because what we do in Media can be stressful, it genuinely helps that you feel you belong and that you’re doing a good job. It’s important to receive positive reinforcement. That, my friends, is the craic- and you’d be surprised by the amount of people that don’t know it.

 

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