Dear Bammy Awards,
For the last 16 hours or so I have been trying to find the words to describe what last night’s event did for me as a teacher, not as an honoree. And while this letter may come off as too blunt, there are things we need to talk about.
When I first heard about you last year, I was curious and mildly excited that someone was finally trying to put a positive spotlight on educators. When I was invited to attend as one of the 100 Connected Educators, I was honored, even though I knew my two babies at home would prevent me from coming. I thought what you had was a great idea, even if there were bumps in the road to figure out.
This year when I heard that I was a nominee, up for elementary teacher of the year, I was humbled, confused, and also torn between whether this was something to be proud of our ashamed of. As an educator that does not reward or award students special recognition, I had to come to terms with my own recognition. Yet, I stood by you through the criticism, the endless discussions of your intent, and also the defending of my decision to go to your event.
Last night was supposed to be the pinnacle of positivity for me. An event where we as educators and educator fans would come together to celebrate everything that is great about the incredible work that is done by so many people. Not just teachers, not just administrators, but many groups in education. I bought the dress, the plane ticket, took off of work to celebrate the job I love so much and I brought the most important person in my life, my husband, to show him the power of a group of positive people all in one room. When the lights went down, we were excited and eager to see how the evening would unfold.
Sure, the bashing of Finland was misplaced, not a big deal, but at the same time in poor taste. I celebrate all of my students’ success, no matter how others did. I celebrate when my colleagues do incredible things, when people achieve their dreams even if they did better than I did. Even if they achieved something I cannot. Why you would ever want to “beat” another nation that educates better than we do is beyond me. Education is about connecting and sharing, not about keeping our secrets so that others cannot steal them. We should recognize what Finland has done and then focus on ourselves and the things we need to work on. Yet, I forgave you for poor jokes and kept my excitement going.
And then came the comedian. I am at a loss of words to describe the mortification I experienced sitting in the room. Yes, there are many things that are funny in education, I certainly laugh a lot throughout my day. But to take someone who describes parents as problems and says that we only think children are nice when we are new teachers, and then give them a platform as if we endorse that nonsense is beyond me. To have someone vilify parents and children and then expect us to laugh at it was misplaced, misunderstood, and downright appalling. I not only had colleagues from my district watching the event live, but my family and the families of my students. When she left the stage I felt I needed to apologize to all of them, to explain that I never wish for any of my students to get sick, to explain that I don’t expect gifts and that if they ever do give me a bottle of lotion, an apple mug or a Starbucks giftcard that I am surprised and humbled by their generosity. One of my biggest gifts in education are all of my students and their families and yet that comedian tried to degrade that. That performance did nothing to promote positive school-home relationships, what a missed opportunity.
And then there were the actual awards. On your website it says, “You won’t see educators celebrating or celebrated like this anywhere else.” Which is true because where was the celebration for most of the people on the front lines? I agree it takes a village to raise a child and to educate that child successfully. I agree that the 31 categories are nice because they show a cross slice of how many different facets there are to a successful education community. Yet, to asterisks every single teacher category, plus many others, and state that those awards will not be presented live, without prior notice to any of the people nominated, defeated a large part of your purpose. Teachers are the ones that work with the students and are on the frontlines of education. Yes, we need great leaders and great school boards and great superintendents to help us with our vision, and yes it was wonderful that you made sure to hand out all of those awards, but as often as teachers get ignored in the mainstream media, I had hoped that this time it would be different, yet sadly it wasn’t. You made us into an asterisk and then blasted through a slideshow so quickly that you could not even read the nominee names, let alone clap for them. You perpetuated what most mainstream media does; shine the light on the leaders, the organizations behind, and then forget all about the people who are the ones there pouring their hearts into the work. You gave time to a fake Obama, to several special recognition awards, to long introductions, and even to hand out edtech awards, but you didn’t give time to any other teachers than the librarians (who deserve all of the positivity they get!). How can this be a show that is supposed to highlight the greatness in education without teachers in it?
So dear Bammy Awards, at this point I wonder where you are going to go from here? I wonder what your path will be next year because while your vision is one of true beauty, your execution left me perplexed, saddened, and embarrassed. I didn’t come to win but I came to share the vision of education that so many of us share, one of positivity, connections, and pushing forward through obstacles. I came to plant seeds of change and to celebrate all that we have done. I came to clap loudly for the people who did win and laugh with those who didn’t. At this point, I don’t think I will come back again, and even that makes me sad, because I believed in you and your mission. I defended you and your mission. I trusted you and your mission. And all I got in return for my trust was an experience that left me needing to apologize.
I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.