How can we BEST recognize students?

Student recognition has been on my mind a lot lately.  I’m certain I don’t have all of the answers.  I’m certain I don’t even have MOST of the answers.  What I am certain of is that certain things don’t work.  They simply don’t.  I’ve done a lot of reading on this topic lately and some have made me think harder than others.  Chris Wejr wrote two of the blogs that got my thinking started.

http://chriswejr.com/2010/06/02/death-of-an-awards-ceremony/

http://chriswejr.com/2012/06/16/starting-the-conversation-on-rethinking-awards-ceremonies/

After reading these blogs I came across another blog that made my heart hurt for students at award ceremonies all over the world.

http://www.northtomom.blogspot.com/2011/07/grade-6-graduation-ceremony-awkward.html

I have never liked Awards Ceremonies-not as a child, not as a parent, and not as a teacher.

Perhaps you’re thinking…”Poor thing…must never have gotten any awards.”  Actually, that is far from the truth.  I was of those kids that was “good at school.” (At least in elementary school) I worked hard and I did well.  I was the annoying kid that frantically raises their hand to answer.  I always got awards.  I got more than my fair share of awards.  I remember being actually embarrassed by the number of times that I was called up to the stage.  Was I proud?  Probably.  So, what was the problem?  I had friends that were not “good at school” and I was aware, even then that this just wasn’t fair.

Remember my caveat above…at least in elementary school? I was still a good student in high school, but by that point in time it was obvious that science was not my “thing.” My junior year I started out in chemistry and let’s just say that things were not going swimmingly.  After several months I was able to get transferred to a general science class.  Oh, the shame.  I had never been in a general class of any kind and I have to admit I was humiliated.  Picture an award ceremony with the entire junior class present.  Picture me getting an award for being the best student in general science.  I literally remember wishing that the floor would open up and swallow me.  It didn’t.

As a teacher I have never liked them.  I have tried to undo the damage of huge awards assemblies by having a private award assembly in my classroom afterward where I focus on other things.  Where I ensure that everyone receives an award.  I try and recognize students as great things happen and call home, send positive emails, write cute notes.  But, I’m not sure that anything I do can undo what has already happened.

I hadn’t really thought much about awards ceremonies as a parent until recently.  I have two children.  Brooke is 9, “good at school,” and just finished the fourth grade.  Drew is 6 and just completed kindergarten…the jury is still out on the “good at school” part.  They attend school in the same district that I teach in…but, do not attend my school.  On the last day of school, Brooke came home with six fairly crumpled awards.  From what I am able to gather (because I swear I need to work on story telling with this child) all of fourth grade gathered together for an awards ceremony but there were no parents present.  Awards were given for different clubs which accounted for three or four of Brooke’s awards, perfect attendance, “almost-perfect attendance,” and a couple of other categories that I can’t recall.  She seemed proud of herself, but one of the first things out of her mouth was that she felt bad for “A” and “C” who both only received one or two awards.  Drew piped up and said, “That’s sad.”

That is sad.

My current school doesn’t have an awards ceremony.  But, guess what?  We have a committee.  Yep, a committee that was formed recently to talk about student recognition.  They are thinking we need to have Award Ceremonies to celebrate student achievement.  I plan on stepping forward and speaking up.  I can’t sit back and watch this happen to another generation of students.  Ultimately, I won’t get to make the final decision for the whole school which is another reason that I have decided to pursue my Masters in Administration.  But, I can do what I know is right for my class…at least while we are in our classroom.

This year I am going to consistently take photos of student accomplishments in class, and I am going to ask parents to send me photos and details of accomplishments outside of class and I am going to make an Educreations video for each child.  We will watch them in class and I will send links to parents.  Parents can then share them with Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, etc…and my students will KNOW that I am proud of them and all of their accomplishments.  I have made a very lame example of an educreations presentation below about Brooke as if I were her teacher just to show you what I am talking about.   Please click on her picture.

I would be very interested to hear other’s thoughts.

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3 Comments

  1. Wow – I LOVE the educreation!!! What a fantastic idea! It shows that you know the student, it shares the goals and accomplishments of the student and it does this without creating a competition for a prize. This is a great way to honour each child and also something they can share and add to their portfolio.

    As you have mentioned, I am not a fan of award but I want to add that I am not a fan of providing an award to each child.

    At our school, we honour each child (a different group each month) just like you have done on the educreation but we do it live and invite parents in. We are a small school (250) and we can do this… but in large schools this could pose a problem with trying to have the time to reach each child in a meaningful way. I also question the public ceremony of honouring as I know this is not enjoyed by all students. What your educreation does is make this either public or private. Also, with permission, it could be posted for public viewing so others could be aware of a child’s strengths and interests.

    I will be sharing this!!! Thanks so much for creating an idea I just might steal 🙂

    • I too, am not a fan of an award for each child. I have done it….but, it has never felt real or right. I asked my daughter earlier today how she thought the students felt that only received one award….her response…”I think some kids will try harder if they knew they COULD have tried harder this year…but, if they already tried their hardest…I bet they won’t try at all next year.”

      Thanks for the kind words.

  2. thriftymommagogo

    Oh darling! I get this totally. I hate awards ceremonies. They are meaningless. Void of all the intention of reward. My eldest always got awards. I always got awards. My eldest feels to this day that if someone else gets the awards and she does not, that she is not good enough. My ygst, has a brain injury. She sometimes gets awards but mostly does not meet the silly neurotypical standards by which others judge things. I hate the ceremonies where she sits a d suffers through the sensory overload, noone caring that her achievement as a child is the fact that she got out of bed happy to go to school.

    I have not seen that girl in a long time. She is sad about school mostly, unsupported, unhappy and generally not valued much for her uniqueness.

    I hate rewards and awards and award assemblies.

    Paula
    @inkscrblr

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