The Time is Now! Creating a Classroom Savings Account

We Need to Begin Making Deposits!

Why a savings account? What does this have to do with effective teaching, engagement and deepened learning? What does a classroom savings account have to do with the following statistics?

Each Day in America- December 2009    

  • 5 children or teens commit suicide.
  • 202 children are arrested for violent crimes.
  • 377 children are arrested for drug crimes.
  • 1,240 public school students are corporally punished.*
  • 2,175 children are confirmed as abused or neglected.
  • 2,222 high school students drop out.*
  • 4,435 children are arrested.
  • 18,493 public school students are suspended.

*Based on calculations per school day (180 days of seven hours each).

     Children’s Defense Fund  


The purpose of a savings account is to help the account holder save money and typically money should rarely be withdrawn or removed from the account each month. In fact, there are penalties for removal of funds on a frequent basis.  Savings accounts typically grow and are put into place so interest can be earned and money saved for that extravagant and meaningful purchase months or years from now. 


A classroom savings account established for teachers and students allows for a tangible, visual and positive statement of emotional and social deposits and a tracking system to note accomplishments, successes, and plausible deposits.  Transactions will be explored, discussed and understood, as this is much more than a behavioral management system. Students will create, choose, and take responsibility for their words, choices and participation with one another, and more importantly, themselves. A classroom culture begins with mutual respect, collaboration and constant dialogue as withdraws from the account are contemplated and savored.  Itemized lists of all transactions will be placed in individual accounts and this includes a teacher account.  The deposits and withdraws will be decided as a class with interests earned.   


Let’s take a step back and explore the reasoning and philosophy behind this culture as it relates to building upon the emotional, social and academic needs of all students and teachers.


Where Do We go From Here?


Anger and fear go hand in hand, and we all experience these emotions frequently. There is no such thing as anger without fear and once these are understood to co-exist we can begin to take a look at our thoughts and feelings, while taking responsibility for these feelings inside all occurrences and experiences.  


Inside many of our secondary public schools across the nation, school is looked upon as a “reprieve.” For many students the reality of their daily lives is perceived  harsh because they are working full or part time jobs, going to school full time, taking care of family members and monitoring their own needs as 16 or 17 year old adolescents.  As my good friend and high school teacher Brea Thomas explained last night, “Lori, school is and has become required rest for many overwhelmed and emotionally spent students!”  We are living in challenging socioeconomic times and the stress levels of family systems are chronically high. This in turn directly affects the disposition and emotional states of those students who are walking through our doors expected to focus and pass acuity, ECA, and standardized assessments so they can get into college, save their schools from being taken over, and produce strong growth models so teachers jobs are secure!   Let us look closely at this equation. Recently Colleges and Universities are reporting a dropout rate of over 45% of students in the first half of a four year degree!  Are we truly educating children and adolescents in creative problem-solving and life skills that embrace emotional and critical thinking skill components? Do these young adults enter into higher education or the work force knowing how to self regulate their emotions, plan in advance, empathize with their colleagues or use foresight and hindsight when making significant decisions about their futures?


 In a news story reported by the Indianapolis Star last week,  Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago  is charging students at its ten Chicago high schools  5$ fines for infractions that include chewing gum and untied shoelaces , and last year , it collected over 190,000 dollars in discipline fees from detentions and behavior classes.  Students are given warnings and demerits before they are actually fined, but I am concerned! Punitive actions such as these have little to no transference into other areas in life. Students who choose an infraction or those who do not, typically live in the moment and will avoid punishment ONLY in that specific environment!  How are students upheld and affirmed for their positive and well thought out decisions in these schools? Are there discussions and groups of teacher leaders listening and dialoguing, providing alternative ways of thinking about the   benefits of creative and critical thinking skills, mindsight, and emotional regulation? Does a monetary fine have lasting internal effects? Research has shown time and time again, that extrinsic rewards and punishment do not assist in the developing of minds (the executive function) in our children and adolescents.    As a society in this time, we spend less than 8% of face to face time communicating with one another inside our families and many social environments. We are truly experiencing a social media revolution inside a culturally diverse and fast paced era. This has become an educational crisis that needs and requires our attention and immediate energy!


I believe our national educational assessment scores are low and will change very little in the upcoming years because the emotional and social needs of many of our students are being neglected, overlooked and underestimated when aligning positive emotion to creative and critical thinking skills.  Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was established years ago and as a teacher inside public and charter school classrooms in 2012; this theory has never felt more significant.  At the bottom of the hierarchy are the human’s basic physiological needs; sleep, hunger and thirst. We have students walking into our classrooms, hungry, thirsty and endlessly sleep deprived.  An algebra equation, persuasive essay, and the molecular composition of DNA are irrelevant, unimportant, and pushed aside.   Resting on the second tier of the hierarchy lays our safety needs.   If students do not feel safe, certainly they will not be focused, attentive or responsive. Students’ emotional needs decide whether or not it is safe to pay attention and learn in school. Feeling a sense of belonging and love defines the next tier and these basic needs play directly into the dispositions, overall affect and motivation of all students, young and old.  When a student doesn’t feel cared for, heard or understood, the content, the academic subject matter is irrelevant and completely meaningless.  

Do we need a separate curriculum or do we have the time to teach the emotional and executive function skills that model self-restraint, self-awareness and problem-solving skills that call each of us to manipulate new information in the ways we perceive a challenge or blockage in our lives? No, we do not have the time nor need a separate curriculum. What would be favorable and valuable is a class savings account with deposits made every day and every week of the school year!    


Below I have generated a rough list of deposits and withdraws from a classroom savings account that would be tracked in middle and secondary classrooms This notion would be fully developed by the students, teachers and parents and is intentionally vague with a skeletal blueprint. What are your ideas? How could this work to generate emotional engagement? What is the level of involvement and planning? How could student and parent investment become a priority?      



Deposits (allow the class and teacher to collectively design the list)

Homework completion                                   

Active participation

Arriving to class on time

Appropriately dressed

Asking questions

Paying attention


Helping others

Making improved choices in a heated situation  

Sharing an insight

Starting Over…

Sharing a negative belief (turning around using a self-explanatory style that is more hopeful and improved)  

Giving an authentic compliment


Withdraws (Allow the class and teacher to collectively design the list)

A Lunch/Discuss with a mentor/friend or teacher

Create “An Expert Wall” of what you can do well teaching others and learning about yourself

Bring in outside speakers and mentors for the students’ areas of interest- allow those students who are ready to withdraw to choose a profession and spend an hour with a guest presenter-  auto  mechanics, stylists, vet assistants, attorneys, business entrepreneurs, authors, cartoonists, news media, local actors from theaters, etc.

Create message boards in the classroom- create a list of service organization and create a class blog inside areas of personal student interest.

Spend a week with an outside mentor or career counselor working on a goal planning sheet forgoing homework for a week!

Allow older students to teach to younger classes developing power points and presentations

Rejuvenate building with murals, second hand furniture, new lighting carpets, fish bowls,


Teachers can request outside businesses not only for guest speakers but for donations for various student interests and projects 


Teachers will also create savings account and can make withdraws.  How will this look? What are the educator’s reasons or incentives for deposits? As an educator what motivates you that you could share with your students? What would constitute a teacher deposit?   How would you spend your withdrawn or invested (emotional money)?  What are the long term life skills that can be learned and applied from implementing such a system integrated into your curriculum?



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