Gold Stars & Other Fine Rewards

Miss Sorenson had me at “Hello, class. Welcome to fourth grade.” She was kind, not like that other one, who had once rapped my knuckles at recess. Even more importantly to my nine-year-old values were Miss Sorenson’s suede pumps. These pumps were the color of a purple crayon.

Her glamour fascinated me. But Miss Sorenson motivated me another way: her glittering gold stars. Like many teachers, she topped good homework with a five-point sticker. Was her approach original? No. Thousands of elementary teachers place gold stars on noteworthy assignments. Why? Because it works. Think B.F. Skinner.

This spring, I purchased a packet of gold stars from Spring Grove Variety. Now these stars glimmer on scene cards that hold good writing and on book titles I’ve read for class. Each time I award myself a star, positive memory surges through me. Fourth grade accomplishments. Miss Sorenson. Those purple suede shoes. Well done, I think. You did it!

My reward system isn’t limited, however, to literal gold stars. An ice cream cone, a walk, a day off will do. Giving me a gold star helps quiet the Critic’s voice and keeps me heartened. I achieved my goal. And I notice.

And what will be my gold star for getting a book contract? I have no doubt. Purple suede shoes.

Excerpted from Creative Juices: A Splash of Story Craft, Process & Creative Soul Care (2019)


13 thoughts on “Gold Stars & Other Fine Rewards

  1. sharidragovich says:

    Perfect! I’m going out to buy myself some gold star stickers today. 😀

    I used to get to put a gold star on a chart my piano teacher made for every song I memorized. I loved seeing those gold stars line up, and the more I had, the more motivated I became.



  2. Tisha says:

    I loved reading this! Stickers never gets old, no matter the age. In college, when we were expecting out final stories back in a major writing class, the professor set the stack of manuscripts in front of him and said, “I’ve put stickers on the front of your manuscripts because we could all use a sticker of encouragement from time to time.” I thought it was a bit silly at first, but you know what? I actually giggled when I saw the A+++ sticker. Really. I did. Simple things really do go a long, long way.


      • Miranda says:

        Please keep going with your blog – It’s been healing to my soul, awakening something I did not realize I had left behind. I am now opening back up “The Atrist’s Way”, the same one from my long ago classes with you. Once upon a time you opened up a beautiful word to me, one that I did not know how to embrace. Once again I feel the warm winds of this world, and this time I know how to open my sail.

        Liked by 1 person

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