As Win/Win returns to four middle schools in Philadelphia and Trenton, I thought I should take a minute and give a quick explanation of what this program is all about. I broke it down into three categories: Messages, Incentives and Other Good Things. Let’s start with messages.



This is my favorite part of the program, where teachers get the chance to write messages to students besides the normal “Great Job!” on the top of a test.   What we found out from research is that the more specific the message the more impact it will have. That being said, not every message is a rah-rah, pom-pom waving cheer type note. In fact most of the messages are a way to get across a real statement to a student; one of my favorites simply said, “What Happened?” The student knew exactly what that meant. Another card I saw last year said, “I love how you get along with everyone, but remember school work is most important in class-not what happened in other classes!”   What a great way to say: You are talking way too much in class. Another great message read, “ Thank you for working so nicely in your groups, you show potential for great leadership.” That one would have been nice to get in seventh grade.IMG_1578


Messages can take many forms from an acrostic poem to a wisdom filled quote. Teachers are very creative and understand that the more they put into the messages the more results they will see in the long run. While we expect all of the messages to be positive, teachers use their own style to make each card an original.

Students get their messages every couple of weeks, and depending on the school, they may come from all of a student’s teachers. One student told us about the cards, “I didn’t even realize that teacher knew I was in class till I got a Win/Win card”.


The messages are a way to build the bond between teacher and student, which in turn should lead to more productive classrooms.  The goal with the messages, as with the entire Win/Win program is to improve effort and behavior.  Think of it this way, if someone at least knows who you are, let alone takes time to write a personal note, we would all probably work a little harder and try to make life a little easier for that person.


Under the message section I will mention our MVP (Most Valuable Participant) recognition system used by specialist teachers (gym, technology, art, music). These messages give a chance for teachers that don’t have homerooms, but still see many, many students everyday, a way to recognize children in a meaningfulIMG_1575 way, but also in a convenient manner. I will talk more about these in the incentive part to the guide, but I wanted to include MVP’s here as well because they can be very powerful. At the end of last year we asked students to pick their favorite message cards so we could see what they considered a meaningful message. A good number showed us an MVP card. That was a sign to us that the MVP’s were more important to some students than we thought.


Try writing a few message to your students, and if you’re not a teacher, how about writing a few to your employees, or your own kids, maybe even to a spouse.  It is really hard to beat a handwritten note to show how much you care.


I will end this section of the Win/Win guide with a great message I saw that could really be for anyone, “Focus, Participate, Learn, Succeed”.