I have sat through staff meetings while administrators pick names out of a hat to give away pieces of chocolate. I have attended professional development workshops where a lucky lottery winner goes home with a burlap tote bag. But NBC (that’s right, the one with Brian Williams that sponsors Education Nation) wins the grand prize for lamest teacher incentive of all time. Just at the onset of Teacher Appreciation week, I happened to open my district email about a contest sponsored by NBC only to find out that the grand prize was a pack of pens! “The purpose of this briefing is to inform M-DCPS schools and teachers of the NBC Learn Content Integration Contest. NBC Learn is sponsoring a contest for all teachers to show how they integrate NBC Learn resources in their classroom instruction. Grand Prize: Highlighted on NBC Learn K-12 Home Page, featured in the monthly newsletter, receive an NBC Learn branded 4GB Flash Drive, an NBC Learn mouse pad, and a set of NBC Learn pens. 1st Prize: Each category winner will receive an NBC Learn 4GB Flash Drive, NBC Learn mouse pad, and a set of NBC Learn pens. The complete contest rules are attached and can also be found at http://www.nbclearn.com/contest/miamidade/

I don’t know about the rest of ya’ll, but when I see the words “grand prize” I better see a dollar sign followed by at least four digits, not a small stash of office supplies. OK, so maybe they were throwing in a flash drive (aren’t we all moving to cloud storage anyway?) and a mouse pad (who uses those things anymore?). But none of these items come close to being worthy of being called a prize, let alone a “grand prize.” Not to mention that all of these items are branded with NBC Learn’s logo. That’s more like an advertisement than a prize, an “adverPRIZEment” if you will. A pack of pens might prove useful since my students go through those pretty rapidly but even pens are on their way out as iPads and other digital learning devices are on their way in. With grand prizes like these, is it any wonder that teachers are skeptical of merit pay?