being me, reflection

Dear Bammy Awards, Where Did It Go Wrong?

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.

70 thoughts on “Dear Bammy Awards, Where Did It Go Wrong?”

  1. Pernille, I am so sorry for your bad experience; it sounds dreadful. For what it is worth, you are ALWAYS a teacher hero to me through your blog and all you share here. I couldn’t care less about awards one way or another, but I am so grateful for what you share here, and when I read about your classes I have often wished I could just magically become a child again and be a student in your class! Maybe your letter will have some positive effect on the Bammy people, and maybe not… but luckily you can carry on just doing what you do, knowing so many people are appreciative and grateful!!!

  2. Wow. How can something sounding so positive for teachers fall so short. It would be like the Academy Awards and only presenting the awards for best Director and best Cinematography and put asterisks next to the actors, screenwriters and best costume design. SMH….

  3. I was feeling bad yesterday when I saw that educators in your country are celebrated for what they have done and in my country is totally the opposite in this moment, but now that I read you I also realize that there are some details that have to be taken into account, to celebrate someone doesn´t mean to hurt others, there are funny things in education but diplomacy should be forever our card of presentation. Sorry to hear this, I hope it can be changed and I also admire your work. Don´t feel bad for what other do, not all of us are the same way.

  4. Pernille,
    Thank you so much for so articulately stating your feelings about last night’s event. I am flying home right now, head spinning and mind brimming with what I want to say, yet unable to compose even a sentence. I feel sad, yet so very grateful that I got to meet you..because for that very reason.. I am so glad that I went. Keep speaking up..sharing your beautiful, clear voice, and inspiring others like me.

  5. Pernille,

    We watched, we watched from start to finish. Isabel is proud that her teacher was up for such an award, and as we watched, she said “she does all if these things. I don’t care if she wins, to me she the best teacher in the world.” And that, Mrs. Ripp, is how most people feel about you.

    As my husband and I listened to the “comedian” I felt sorry for all the educators in the room, I felt uncomfortable listening, I can’t imagine being there live. She insulted every parent I know, including myself. But, you never need to apologize for her bad taste.

    Winner of that award or not, we think you are incredible and feel overly blessed to have you educating our daughter. So thank you and thanks to all the educators who do it for the live of the kids, nominees or not!


  6. Pernille,
    This is same feeling I had, kinda makes you wonder who was in charge , and if they really wanted to celebrate what is right on education. I admire your courage.

  7. Pernille,

    First off, thanks for your honesty in writing this post. I’ve been struggling for words all day but every time I read what I’ve written I feel as though it comes off as disrespectful to BAM Radio Network and unappreciative to Eric Sheninger and the rest of the Bammys planning committee for their efforts in pulling this whole thing together.

    Last night and today I’ve found myself apologizing for the comedian, the Finnish bashing and most of all the lack of teachers coming to the stage to accept awards. Instead of just hearing who “won” a Bammy, I would have appreciated getting to know more about the work that got them nominated, the impact on the children and most of all learning something I could take and bring back to my own learning community.

    If this event were to continue in the future, it would need a major overhaul in overall event organization, proofreading of slide/program typos and a vision which is to focus on how the event can teach us something about ourselves, the educators highlighted and education in general.

    This work is about relationships. So aside from the miscues and sarcasm throughout the evening of the Bammys, the event brought many educators, parents, students, leaders together with a chance to get to know each other on a personal level. It was great to meet you and others I’ve only communicated with on blogs and Twitter. In the end, I’m glad I attended. I’m thrilled for the recognition of EdCamp, EdChat and people like Tony Sinanis and other humble leaders who rarely get the appreciation they deserve in their respective states and systems. I just wish that the vision and purpose of the Bammys was more aligned to what we are all trying to do on a daily basis – learn more about how we can be better.

  8. This is a courageous and wonderful letter. I am so sorry that you had the experience you illustrate. I am honored that you used that experience as a way to highlight what is really important in education and what great teachers like you are doing everyday to lift children and families up and educate well. When it comes to education “support” so many efforts are misguided. I hope you’ll keep your voice alive as you’re a bright light to so many of us in the field. Thank you.

  9. Bravo Pernille! Working with K-12 students and their parents and caregivers is a privilege and an honor! Each day, we have the opportunity to be a part of something greater than ourselves. We get to be apart of something magical on a daily basis! I can’t think of anything more important than being a part of a child’s learning journey! I’ve been teaching since 1993 and there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t acknowledged how blessed I am to be an educator! So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your honesty and courage to write this post!

  10. Thank you, Pernille, for articulating what many of us present were feeling yet were unable to articulate. I’m happy to have been honored, but ashamed of how it was done.

  11. So appreciate your honest reflections. I have to say that I absolutely love the beauty of The BAM Radio Network. I just simply can’t get into agreement with the Awards. It just doesn’t resonate with me, and I’m just going to leave it at that for now. Having said that…Can’t tell you how terribly disappointed I was to watch the so called comedic proceedings on the live-stream and wondering how all of you there present were feeling. But the truly upsetting point was not to see nominated teachers celebrated and recognized in the LIVE presentation! That was the reason I had tuned in at all! I’m such a believer in the idea that educators are servant leaders with a passion that drives us to search for ever better solutions to things that affect our students lives and seem impossible but are achievable. I too as Marialice shared am so proud to be an educator, but frankly was embarrassed for our profession last night. Here’s hoping that honest dialog with the coordinators to improve the event will be born from those like you, that are willing to speak out and let their voices be heard. Bravo to you, for your passion and your work!

  12. Well done, Pernille! Your voice is echoing the sentiments of a great number of us. Despite the assumed good intentions of the organizers, many moments throughout the evening left us cringing in our seats. How reassuring to know that, YES, I DO know those difficult-to-teach kids… but, get this, I actually LOVE those kids. And, YES, we are doing great things in American education, but we also recognize that we by no means have all the right answers. Not fully understanding why or how things went down the way they did, I can say for sure that I’m thankful the nominees were so strong (as were the cocktails), and that both of those qualities were very good things indeed.

  13. There was so much grumpiness on Twitter while the awards were presented. Pernille, I was so happy for those who were nominated, but now am so sad with all the anguish in your voice and the discord that has occurred. From what I am reading, something that started with such wonderful intentions, has misfired and misfired badly. Teachers deserve to be recognized for their commitment to education and to the children they teach.

  14. Pernille,

    Wow. Thank you for sharing your feelings and for having the courage to say what was on your mind and in your heart. You were able to describe what many of us were feeling. I was sad because all I could think of was how hurtful some of the comments made were to our children and their parents. In addition, I also felt the Bammys fell short of celebrating the accomplishments of so many great educators. However, as Joe Mazza stated above, I too agree that there were positives that we will be able to take from this event, mainly the life long relationships that were cultivated this weekend among educators who we can now call friends. I shared in a post tonight that after meeting members of my PLN in person, their tweets now take on a whole new voice and meaning. Getting to meet you in person and others such as Tom Murray, Tony Sinanis, Jenna Shaw, Paula Naugle and several others for the first time are the positives I will take from this experience. I cannot and will not allow one poorly managed event take away from the good the Bammy’s tried to do and the good all of our fellow educators are doing. Thank you again and I look forward to staying connected.- jimmy

  15. This was so well-written, Pernille. Thanks for sharing in your heartfelt and eloquent way, as always. I am saddened to hear about what happened at the awards, especially in light of the way teachers are currently perceived as the “enemy” by so many people, and I applaud you for speaking truth.

    What teachers really need is not awards and limos and fancy dresses: we need the backing of the American public again. Right now we are the butt of jokes and the object of scorn, and it sounds like the Bammys have inadvertently perpetuated that even further.

    The Bammys have the potential to help elevate teachers back to a position of respect and authority in our country. I hope that there will be some serious re-thinking of the program and its execution next year.

  16. I still find it depressing that an awards show that is supposed to celebrate teachers chose a blogger / commentator that rarely blogs, rarely interacts with others on Twitter and uses her platform to bash teachers, the union and public education as a whole.

    1. Hi John,

      I am that blogger/commentator who just insulted. I congratulate you on your nomination, and even though I was selected over you I would never demean you or your efforts in education.

      You say that I “rarely blog.” I’ve just posted my 100th post in two years (that’s about one per week), and since I’m a full-time teacher and a pregnant mother with two young children and a husband, I think I’ve done pretty well. I choose to write quality, thoughtful posts over a high quantity of meaningless posts–and I don’t apologize for that.

      The value of one’s blog is not measured by how many tweets they put out or how many followers they have on Twitter. I am a TEACHER, WIFE AND MOM, so excuse me if I’m not spending every waking minute building a brand on social media.

      Finally, I don’t bash teachers; after all I’m a teacher and have been one for 10 years. I speak the truth about my experiences, and my honesty is what my readers like most about me. Why can’t we agree to disagree without you making personal attacks on my character? Isn’t that what we teach our students to do?

      It’s so unfortunate that our profession is so polarized that we can’t even be gracious to our fellow colleagues when they are honored. I hope you come out of your “depression” soon. I don’t get up every Wednesday mornings at 4 a.m. to blog so that I can win awards or to get the most followers on Twitter. I love to write, and I use my voice to propose ideas on how to make education better for students and teachers. You may not see it that way, but there are thousands of readers who appreciate what I do.

      –Marilyn Rhames

      1. A few things:
        1. In your post on the Chicago strikes, you bashed teachers and the teacher’s union. It was pretty clear where you stood.
        2. I’m not bitter about losing. I didn’t nominate myself and I don’t pretend that I deserve that award.
        3. The goal has never been getting up early, building an audience and building a brand. I’m a teacher, a dad and a husband. I get it. I’m busy, too. I just felt that an award that honors “the best” ought to consider things like output and participation.
        4. I didn’t attack your character. I just pointed out that I disagreed with that decision for the blogger/commentator category.

      2. I’m re-reading my comment again and I think you’re right. I get defensive with the teacher-bashing and I think I viewed your blog posts through that lens. I failed to see the beauty of what you’ve written in other areas – especially with regards to the way you tackled issues of race and privilege.

        I was wrong. Really wrong. The truth is that I don’t put a ton of effort into my blogs, my tweets or my social media interactions. I also want to clarify that I’m really not trying to build a brand there for that matter. It’s my community where I flesh out ideas.

        I try for nuance and the truth is that I missed the nuance of your posts, because my first exposure to your blog was one that left such a visceral reaction.

        I’m re-reading your posts right now with a fresh eye and seeing that there is an authenticity and humility that I admire, despite our differences.

        My criticism here was public and so I’d like to make this apology public as well.

        I’m truly sorry.

    2. Hi John,

      I fully accept your apology. It’s not the first time I have been misunderstood and I know it won’t be the last. I give you major credit for being willing to read my blog for a deeper, more nuanced understanding of who I am and what I believe. I tend to fall in the middle of the reformers and the union; I’m not necessarily into picking sides, just supporting what seems just and fair to me.

      Thanks again for your graciousness in recanting your statements. I think we’d make great thought partners going forward!

      Marilyn Rhames

  17. Pernille,

    As usual you are able to put down the words that so many of us are thinking but can’t (or won’t) get down on paper. I applaud you and thank you whole-heartedly.

    I was in attendance, not as a nominee, but as an invited connected educator. I was excited to see all of the winners have their time in the spotlight which doesn’t happen often enough. I planned to applaud wildly as each category winner was announced and called to the stage to collect their Bammy. I was ready to tweet out each winner and was doing so until we got to the teacher categories. I was so shocked that they were not being presented “live” that I just sat in my seat in a stupor, as the slideshow quickly flashed by.

    Wait I thought. I had to endure a comedian taking pot shots at education for the sake of laughs and I had to endure an Obama-spoof video that I’m not even sure why was a part of the cermony, but I wasn’t going to see the teachers be presented their Bammys. Really?

    I am grateful that I was invited to attend. I willing shelled out my hard earned money to be at the gathering I thought would herald some educators that I truly admire and take inspiration from. I am grateful that I got to meet you in person and spend some time with you and your husband, as well as many other educators who attended.

    Pernille, you do not need to apologize. You need to hold your head up high and know that you truly inspire so many other teachers with your work and your words.

  18. Reblogged this on Today is a Great Day for Learning and commented:
    I feel her voice and understand her pain. It is another example of how sometimes in an attempt to honour we miss because we focus on the awards and the show rather than the amazing stories of educators and students. What we say and do matter! Surely there is a way we can celebrate educators and learning without giving out awards.

    From what I’ve read the connections made were the highlight of evening. Now these stories and their impact on each person involved would be ones I would love to read about and learn from.

    Thank you Pernille for sharing your story. Your experiences and voice inspire me.

  19. Hello Pernille, thank you for sharing your thoughtful and heartfelt impressions on last night’s Bammy Awards. Let me begin by saying that I think all of your criticisms are reasonable and worthy of discussing.

    As many thoughts and comments come streaming in, I have refrained from addressing any of them in the belief that most experiences need both context and time to truly comprehend their impact. So I’m inclined to resist the urge to respond viscerally to my first impressions in pursuit of a more thoughtful and insightful reply.

    That said, I’ve opted to break that policy and respond to you immediately because I deeply respect you and your work and simply could not allow your concerns to go unanswered.

    First, I completely understand how you could feel and perceive the evening and some of the presentations as you did. You clearly came to the Bammy Awards with an expectation and to the extent that those expectations were not met, the event fell short of what you hoped it would be. I get that and get that you are not alone in your perceptions. Cognizant of the old axiom that “perception is reality” I respect that your view of the Bammy Awards is real to you and I honor you by accepting it as an authentic and valid point of view.

    Reading the many posts, we see that there are widely different perceptions of the event — both positive and negative. One of the fascinating things about social media is that the full spectrum of thoughts, perspectives and commentary on any event, from responding to the use of chemical weapons in Syria to Miley Cyrus’s performance at the MTV video awards, are now subject to a tsunami of disparate perspectives that flood the blogoshpere and Twitterverse. Unvarnished public scrutiny is now part of our daily lives. In this new climate, how does any individual, group, organization or company determine whether or not they are doing “the right thing?” Should the “right thing” simply be based on a tabulation of “likes” on Facebook, followers on Twitter, the ratio of positive to negative blog posts, ratings, or any of the myriad array of tools available to help individuals and organizations measure the “popularity” of their actions? Should “right actions” simply be based on surveys of public opinion and turn like a weather vane in the wind as those opinions shift over time as they invariably do? Women’s rights, gay rights and civil rights are perhaps the most obvious examples of how public opinion on “what’s right” and what’s the right thing to do have changed over time.

    So what should be the ultimate arbiter of what’s right in any given scenario?

    With that admittedly lengthy preface I speak directly to your points.

    The purpose of the Bammy Awards is clear- celebrate the contributions of all groups across the education village. That’s the substance. The style of the Bammy Awards is also unambiguous – to celebrate the education community in a spirit of authenticity, play and good natured fun.

    Speaking to your first point of criticism regarding Finland. It is axiomatic that a prophet is often lowly regarded in his or her own land. Noting that there are great educators right here in America doing great work and producing extraordinary results that often go unnoticed, while we ship people off to study Finland is less of a statement about Finland and more of a statement about how we often undervalue and ignore talent right in our own backyards.

    Finland’s extraordinary educational performance speaks for itself. Not sure that some lighthearted jesting about some of the best educators in America being able to teach Finland how to educate Americans rises to the level of Finland bashing.

    The thoughts about Lisa Murphy’s performance are more complicated and exists at the intersection of positivity and authenticity. There are some who value positivity at all costs. This value system would put a smiley face on all aspects of working with kids and parents, despite any broadly known, contradicting realities. Certainly we understand that the accepted posture toward children and parents at an awards event would be to put a glowing smiley face on the subject. That said, as a parent who loves his daughter beyond anything that approaches good reason, I certainly acknowledge that parenting has ups and downs. Lisa Murphy, as an experienced early childhood educator, and acknowledges that teaching kids and working with parents also has ups and down. I personally believe that there is something cathartic, expanding and authentic about being able to acknowledge that fact openly. Moreover, humor is typically the medium in which we typically allow ourselves to express these thoughts in a positive way. I understand that Lisa’s candor and sense of humor might not appeal to everyone. That said, she is a very popular ECE speaker and trainer who is in high demand across the nation, so her humor clearly resonates with some educators. Unfortunately, it did not resonate with some people on Saturday night, a bad match up on my part, perhaps. Of course, this was a humorous presentation with the intent to entertain, not a keynote address meant to make a substantive statement about parents or kids…just a lighthearted, authentic look at the foibles and follies of working with young children. So I think it’s important to keep her performance in context.

    To your point about some of the awards not being presented live. This is a pretty inescapable reality of any awards program that aims to cover the scope of an entire community. It two hours to present 21 awards, presenting them all would have extended the program to three hours. Indeed, as the program grows to 40 or 50 categories, the choice is either host a four to five hour awards program (impractical) or to do what similar cross-discipline awards programs like the Oscar and the Emmy awards do—present just a portion of the awards live. To your point about advanced notice, it is published on the web site that all of the awards will *not* be presented live. We accept that more could be done to make sure this is more broadly known and understood. Thank you for making that point.

    I think the point about teachers not being acknowledged this year results from having limited visibility into who was actually standing on stage on Saturday evening. This year, like last, we received emails from people indentifying many groups that should be included. School librarians and students are two examples and this year we included them and presented their awards on stage.

    However teachers were represented much more deeply that might be obvious on the surface. For example, Jessie Hagopian is a teacher who was the only honoree to take home two Bammy Awards on Saturday- one for both for his role as a secondary school teacher and a special achievement Bammy Award for courageous leadership. We focused on the story of the extraordinary leadership of a classroom teacher versus his category of secondary school teacher. Though Marylin Rhames was recognized for her blogging on real-world education issues, she too is a full-time, practicing teacher and indeed it is her in the trenches perspective that makes her writing so compelling and relevant. We understand that this would not be immediately evident to you or others watching.

    I believe I have summarily addressed most of your criticism. Would like to close on a positive and authentic note.

    I understand that the Bammy Awards are new and that at some level there are many expectations being projected on to it as people grapple to understand what the Bammy Awards are really about. Many of the criticisms seem to be driven by the expectation that the Bammy Awards should follow an established mold.

    We set out from the very beginning to make it clear that the Bammy Awards are something different. There are apples and oranges and a place in the world for both. The Bammy Awards is not an apple.

    There were so many people who were truly uplifted and inspired by the acknowledgement they received at the Bammy Awards. There were so many groups who expressed gratitude for being included in this celebration. The young student, Mallory Fundora, who took home a Bammy, was over the top delighted to be recognized on an adult stage. Her story was both touching and inspiring and summed up what the whole evening and the point of education is about. Jesse Hagopian, Nancy Carlsson- Paige, Marilyn Rhames and Erica Parrotte were all clearly moved by being acknowledged by the education village. Indeed, there was so much good that transpired Saturday night that it almost seems a travesty to sully the significance of the evening for the people who were honored, by focusing on the percentage of the evening that was not as expected. This is not to discount your criticism or to suggest that they should not be expressed. It’s to say that for the sake of the educators who did feel that the Bammy Awards was a positive experience, who did walk away feeling uplifted and acknowledged, it would have been nice to see feedback that was more balanced and which incorporated some of the unequivocal good that also transpired on Saturday night.

    Answering the question posed at the top, how does one determine what is the “right thing to do” in the age of social media? I can only speak for myself. Follow your deepest, authentic, conviction. My heart says that on the day that the Bammy Awards uplifts no one, does no good, and clearly ceases to contribute any value to the education community it will end. That said, will there be missteps along the way? Of course. Are there areas that can be improved? Absolutely! Will we continue to refine and improve the program? Bet on it. But it’s not the number of likes on Facebook or the ratio of positive to negative blog posts that will drive the Bammy Awards going forward. It’s the heart-warming smiles, tears and choked backed emotion of those across diverse categories who felt authentically and meaningfully acknowledged at the Bammy Awards. It’s the comments of the educators who enjoyed the opportunity to connect with their colleagues in a unique and exceptional setting and at the end of the day, it’s the Mallory Fundoras and all of the young students who came out again to play in the orchestra for the Bammy Awards. They exemplify what the Bammy Awards are about.

    I value your trust and am saddened at the prospect of losing it. However I accept and respect that thoughtful people following their conscience will at times have conflicting views. I respect your candor. Hopefully you will also respect mine.


      “To your point about advanced notice, it is published on the web site that all of the awards will *not* be presented live.”

      I think this is a cop out. It’s not as if educators have the income streams and wealth of media stars, able to jet around and purchase formalwear at the blink of an eye. Travel expenses are a real hardship for educators. To diminish those costs and those concerns with a “read the fine print’ rationalization is pretty insulting to the very people you’re supposedly honoring. In the future, it would be respectful if you informed the people attending in a timely manner which categories would be honored on stage and let them make the decision whether to attend or not.


      “I value your trust and am saddened at the prospect of losing it. However I accept and respect that thoughtful people following their conscience will at times have conflicting views. I respect your candor. Hopefully you will also respect mine.”

      This last paragraph – and, indeed, most of this response to Pernille – reeks of rationalization, defensiveness, and corporate-speak. How about just saying “We’re sorry. We blew it on several fronts and we’ll do better next year?” That would go much further toward building trust and respect than anything said here…

    2. Errol,
      I am glad you felt my post was worth a reply as it was meant as a way to open up communication and hopefully start an honest discussion and reflection about the event. I wholeheartedly agree that there were many positive moments, I had many myself during the weekend, my post is meant to highlight areas in which the Bammys can grow. If the mission is to honor educators then there is work to be done.

      Scott McLeod below presented two of my thoughts much better than I can, so instead I wanted to circle back to the choice of the comedian. Those who know know that I am a very sarcastic, dark humored person. I tend to laugh at things that are taboo, perhaps it stems from my liberal upbringing. I am also not really one to get upset about comedy. However, this is why I was upset (taken from a comment up top and written by one of my current parents):
      “As my husband and I listened to the “comedian” I felt sorry for all the educators in the room, I felt uncomfortable listening, I can’t imagine being there live. She insulted every parent I know, including myself.”
      She insulted every parent I know….Wow, that was the impression left by an event meant to highlight all of the positive things happening in education. So I don’t think this was a case of “just a lighthearted, authentic look at the foibles and follies of working with young children.” Not very lighthearted, and definitely not authentic for most of the teaching community.

      While I could add more, I will leave the rest of the comments to speak for themselves. The highlight of the weekend was meeting the incredible people I grow from every day and to see some of them be honored. For that I will always be grateful.

    3. I knew little of the Bammy awards until so many tweets yesterday highlighted educators’ concerns about how the event and some its blips did or did not “elevate” the education profession. Aside from that question which merits a discussion in itself, I am troubled by reading this response to Pernille’s legitimate concerns. This response in fact diminishes Pernille’s concerns by acknowledging them as her right to have, but then in fact justifying and defending those points which very likely deserve acknowledgment as a mistake in judgment on the Bammys’ part. When those concerns are in fact the courageously voiced thoughts of many others’ as well, then perhaps it is time to wait, as you originally intended, for a response, and in so doing take a more critical look at the basis and reasoning for those concerns, and then in fact acknowledge them as Scott so aptly stated would be more appropriate.

      I also read Chris Casal’s response to attending the event, shared from the point of view of a past event organizer ( In it he states how his wife was told she and he were not needed on the red carpet for pictures; they weren’t on “the list”. He also states how it became quite clear after the first few awards that only those seated up front were in fact the winners, thus realizing before the moment of suspense that should have been his to feel that he was in fact not the “winner”.

      I must express that I question to what degree such an Oscars-style event actually elevates the profession. Celebrating education is one thing. Making celebrities of select educators in such an awards show fashion is another. Its nature doesn’t seem to mesh well with the shared burden that all educators bear each and every day. By no means do I challenge the legitemacy of what any of those educators who were recognized have accomplished or their individual merit. Indeed I agree so many deserve recognition for their great work. I simply question if this type of event actually achieves what we need in terms of true respect and honor for our nation’s teachers and all those who support them and students’ learning.

      On more thing, while I was trying to not pick at any one statement, as Scott already aptly did and as it is not necessary, I just caught this one as I skimmed through one more time, regarding the comedian:

      “I think it’s important to keep her performance in context.”

      Therein lies perhaps the essence of this entire response to Pernille’s concerns. Whatever your intentions in this reply, whether to try to honor Pernille’s concerns and defend your own, to simply defend your own while giving appearance of honor, or to try to discredit Pernille’s concerns as not legitimate, this comment and others hint much to the latter reasons. Pernille did keep it in context, the context of an event that purports to elevate the education profession but then gives voice to comedy (isn’t comedy often closer to the truth?) that does not at all fit the context of those in audience and is in fact not the truth for them and so many others who deserve recognition. Many of us honor our students’ and their families stories, we avoid the teachers’ room talak or interject in it to defend stories. It’s not about valuing positivity at all costs, it’s about Pernille clearly stating for herself and many others that she truly doesn’t feel that way about students and parents, and that such comedy at such an event is poorly placed and indeed out of context. Why can’t that simply be admitted and reconciled?

      I believe that this event and all the individuals’ efforts behind it are indeed for the purpose they claim to be, yet I like so many others struggle with relegating the awards for the elementary, middle, and secondary educator to non-live acceptances. Don’t these three titles strike to the core of what we are all in this for? The direct and front lines to teaching our nation’s children? I would think if anything, these would be the final, closing pieces of a ceremony that seeks to elevate the education profession, going with the Oscars, these are the Best Actor, Actress, and Film awards, the ones that people stay up late on a school or work night to be able to see.

      I believe in failing as FAIL: Frequent Attempts In Learning. I believe, from what I have read, this event failed on some levels not only to meet Pernille’s expectations of what she envisioned it to be, which your comment seems to attempt to limit to only hers, but indeed to meet its mission to elevate the education profession. I place no individual blame and understand and trust each individual wants the right thing for us all. But I fear upon reading this response that next year might not improve given the justifications and defenses you have stated here. I imagine this response will sadden many to read, those who invested in this event and those who enjoy and appreciate its celebration.

      Maybe I’m a buffoon for feeling and stating all this. Maybe not. But it is because of educators like Pernille who boldly speak out for what they believe to be true, I am moved to do so as well, for whatever it might be worth or not worth. Take it as it is from me, but please consider rereading and re-responding to Pernille’s concerns. Please consider surveying all those involved, maybe educators in general. Learn from this event and from the concerns that Pernille gives voice to. Perhaps we can all be better for it.

  20. I’ve been writing and reporting about K12 education for nearly 40 years — not at 10,000 feet but in visits to schools all over the USA. One of the most persistent barriers to realizing the potential of American schools has been the “dark sarcasm” that *some* educators perpetuate toward parents and also children who come from difficult circumstances. Pernille’s sharing of her parent’s story about the Bammys is damning beyond any defense I can imagine. In the end, the ceremonies appear to be more about circling the wagons than breaking through to a new relationship between teachers and the public.

  21. Hey Pernille,

    Admittedly, I didn’t watch the Bammys and have paid them little mind since I first heard of them. I think the beginning of your post hit the mark. We don’t become teachers to be celebrated. I think this entire fiasco sends the wrong message to our students.

    Plus, with all due respect to you and other honorees, I doubt the best teachers are there. This show seems to be about connected educators, not the teacher who works in obscurity.

    The best teacher I’ve ever seen taught my children how to read in one year. She went above and beyond to make my highly anxious daughter feel safe and loved. She is first to arrive and last to leave each day. It’s been years since my children had her as a teacher, but each time she sees me, she asks about both of them by name. When I mention her to any parent or teacher who knows her, they all say she is the best!

    People like her don’t get nominated for awards, though. They just keep changing lives, never hoping for a red carpet.

    1. I appreciate your support of Pernille, Mark, yet still feel a bit disrespected when people say: I doubt the best teachers are there. Just because we are connected educators does not mean we are not worthy. I have worked for years in obscurity and do nothing to self-promote. I attended the Bammys because, yes, I was nominated, but more importantly to celebrate the work that ALL of us do as committed teachers. It’s fine to be critical of awards ceremonies; I also have my concerns about singling people out. But we don’t have to take away from the rare moments when someone we know is honored. I respect you greatly and appreciate your candor, but felt compelled to speak up.

      1. Joan, I greatly admire your work too, along with others nominated, like Pernille and friends, Tom Whitby, Angela Maiers and Shelly Terrell. Having said this, I certainly didn’t intend to offend any of you. I do believe educators as a whole need to be recognized. I’m just not sure this is the best way to do it. I appreciate your comment.

    2. Hi Mark,
      I was going to say what Joan then so eloquently stated. Not all educators out there were connected, it just looks that way from Twitter streams since there are connected people out there. In fact, the teacher who “won” our category is not connected. This post is not meant to discuss awards as I have written numerous posts on this, instead this post was meant to be an honest reflection on a perplexing experience. One which I have had to apologize to families and my school community for.

      To say that just because someone is connected means they may not be the best teacher is nonsense to me. There are many excellent teachers in the world, some connected, some not, but we need to stop using connectedness as a way to say that people are not worthy. Sure I am connected but I was nominated for the Global Read Aloud something that connects educators around the globe, is that then a detraction from me as a teacher?

      As always, thank you for your comment. They always make me think.

      1. Thank you, Mark, for your elaboration. I have utmost respect for you and your work as well. I actually agree that we need to celebrate educators as a whole. Thank you, Pernille, for standing up and expressing yourself so clearly. I am yet to compose my own post about this experience.

  22. Lisa Murphy is not a “comedian” vs a well respected and talented Early Childhood Educator. Regardless of your personal opinion of her remarks (and I have a few regarding yours! :D) I’d hope you would be able to be respectful enough of a leader in education than to refer to them as a “comedian”.

  23. Pernille:

    Pardon my delayed response. I was trapped on a plane without Internet access or I would have replied earlier. I support your desire to open up honest discussion and reflection about Saturday night’s Bammy Awards. Presumably the outcome of that discussion would be at some level of reconciliation and I am motivated by that prospect. What’s clear is that in order to have a truly constructive discussion we would all need to enter that discussion with the willingness to assume that we all are bringing our authentic voices to the exchange, we all are people of equally good will and we all have equally good intentions. Further, a constructive discussion probably requires some willingness to defer judgment and to grant the other participants the benefit of the doubt as we work through the issues.

    That said, I’ve clearly heard and acknowledged that the choice of humor did not work for you and others. The dilemma here is that Lisa is a dedicated and accomplished early childhood specialist who is currently working on her masters degree, and who has a large following of ECE professionals who love her candor and style. She volunteered her time to come out and be part of the program. This is not offered as a “defense,” but to acknowledge that there are multiple valid perspectives on her performance. So I must respect that some may like Lisa’s performances, while some are offended by it, and take responsibility for the possibility that I made an improper match.

    As previously mentioned, I am saddened by the thought of losing your trust. I’m sorry that the program didn’t meet expectations. When misfires happen, committed people learn from those missteps and redouble their efforts going forward. Last year we didn’t mention the non-presented categories at all. We learned from that and this year we displayed those categories on the screen. We will continue to improve on the process. I remain open to further constructive discussion of the program wherever the foundation for honest, respectful discussion exists.

    Thanks again for you candor. I appreciate your acknowledging that there were many positive moments and now it’s time to start focusing on the positive.

    1. This is better – much closer to ‘We’re sorry. We blew it on several fronts and we’ll do better next year.’ – until the very last sentence.

      Do you get to – all by yourself – just decide that, okay, now ‘it’s time [for all of us] to start focusing on the positive?’ I don’t think you do. Maybe Pernille and others are willing to do that. But maybe she and others aren’t. Maybe they’ll read your last sentence as just a defensive plea – similar to any organization that gets hammered in public – for ‘we don’t like what you’re saying and we want it to stop so just say nice things about us so that this will all blow over as quickly as possible.’ I think Pernille and others get to decide if ‘it’s time to start focusing on the positive,’ not you…

      I think you’re trying. And you get credit (from me, at least) for your efforts and your willingness to dialogue. That goes a long way, particularly since many other organizations try to ignore rather than engage. But what I’m trying to say here is that trust and goodwill and respect come from us. You don’t get to mandate that we feel them about your actions or your remedies. Keep talking with us. Solicit opinions about how to make next year better. Act publicly and transparently on those suggestions. Explain your thinking as you go. Do your best to accommodate a variety of different interests and needs without leaving anyone disrespected or hanging. And so on. Those actions are what build trust, not unilateral decision-making by the aggriever toward the aggrieved.

      1. Scott:

        If there is a genuine intent to be constructive here I’m having a hard time seeing it. My 18 year old daughter just walked in the door, read your post and said this is cyber-bullying. She went on to say that a teacher would never attempt to beat down a student who tried to do something innovative and didn’t get it right. Why would a teacher do this to an adult? I had no answer. She said this looks just like what teens did online when she was in high school. I’m not going to make any judgement about the intentions here Scott. I will simple reiterate two points:

        1. I remain open to further constructive discussion of the program wherever the foundation for honest, respectful discussion exists.
        2. There is much work to done and this is my focus. There are many great things that came out of the Bammy Awards that are not being shared. I respect your right to spend as much time exploring where the “Bammy Awards Went Wrong” as you feel is necessary. If some additional, compelling insight surfaces from your exploration that I should note, rest assured that I will examine it. Otherwise, barring some new and clearly constructive comment It is time for *me* to shift to the positive.

        Thanks for the feedback Scott.

      2. Errol, just because I disagree with how you’re handling this and talking about this does not make it cyberbullying. It sounds like the only ‘constructive’ or ‘respectful’ discussion you want is that which doesn’t push on you too hard. Once again, you’re trying to control our conversation and our feelings because you don’t like what we’re saying. It’s like the kid who says ‘play by my rules or I’m going to take the ball and go home.’

        I’m not ‘beating on you’ because you failed to get it right. I’m ‘beating on you’ (your term, not mine) because you’re coming across as defensive and justificatory rather than as sincerely apologetic. I’m not the only one that noticed this; see the comments of others above that agree with me. You are getting TONS of constructive feedback from folks here – people that care and want to engage with you – and instead of being thankful (for example, companies pay big money for focus groups to get the kind of feedback you’re getting for free), you’re defensive.

  24. Hadn’t seen it before- am watching it now and she’s hysterical! And gee-the crowd really gave her a warm welcome? But by the end they sure were laughing!

    There are some people who have such poor senses of humor, they’ve lost the ability to laugh and not take themselves quite so seriously. They wouldn’t last the day in Early Childhood Education.

      1. “I found this funny, so did the audience, based on the laughter, and if you didn’t you
        1. probably don’t work with little kids and/or 2. if you took offense to it, you are taking yourself and this whole awards show thing maybe just a little too seriously.”

    1. I agree with hechternacht, Lisa Murphy is no comedian. Unlike Pernille, I wasn’t offended by the so-called humor, but she is a universe away from hysterical. I smiled at one or two jokes, but that’s the extent of it. I applaud Lisa’s courage for taking on the role of joke-teller at an event like this.

      1. Here’s the thing about the “comedy”: it wasn’t suitable for the audience we were encouraged to invite. We invited our families, our students and their parents to watch this event live. We put the link on our blogs, and our biggest fans proudly tuned in because they wanted to see us, hear our names, and celebrate us. Instead they got to hear comments that were, perhaps, funny late at night in a comedy club at best..and I am being generous here. Wishing a contagious disease on your students: not really funny, sorry!
        It was the classic issue of “knowing your audience” that is key. We all have tough, even funny and challenging situations with students and parents, but we don’t stand up and make fun of them for some laughs. Ok, so if we do, we do it at home and feel absolutely terrible about it later. As teachers, we actually have to learn how to love those kids whose “behaviors” might drive us nuts and we also must learn how to work with parents who need our guidance. To air our “not so fine moments” in a ceremony intended to celebrate what’s great in education just seems like a very poor mismatch. It has nothing to do with smiley faces and acting like teaching is easy or always positive. We can be funny and a bit edgy while also emphasizing that somehow we all make it work. We all know that teaching is thought by many to be the most challenging and yet rewarding profession on this planet.

  25. Pernille, Thank you for the thought-provoking post. Having not seen the Bammys, but curious about the concept I was interested to read your impressions. I feel your disappointment and concern. Like you, in theory, I do appreciate the concept of celebrating educators as “representative” of the good work so many do, in large and small ways. It’s symbolic and conveys a sense of celebration for our work. I do empathize with and understand the conflicts inherent in that as well.

    I do understand why there is a request for some transparency in the planning because perhaps crowdsourcing the guest speaker might result in a better fit for the event/audience for example (and also model collaborative efforts). We want teachers to be collaborative so maybe that is a way forward with this event as well.

    And as a librarian, I appreciate that librarians were added to the mix, but I also do feel that it is essential to have teacher awards given in person–that is at the heart of the intent of the awards. The awards going to students and educators in the building and in a district seem the heart of the matter about which all else revolves. (For how can one blog about education in general if there weren’t teachers and students and leaders to be writing about?)

    Lastly, I do agree with Scott’s insight about the cost for classroom teachers to attend the event being considered in terms of what awards are presented. Also I don’t think a 3 hour awards show would be too lengthy. The Oscars and Emmys are that long and we all watch those 😉 And I’ve been to school board meetings much longer than that.

    Pernille, I appreciate your post because as an event like this evolves, its ability to be responsive to attendees will be important. I for one am willing to give it a little more bit of a chance. I think there is an attempt to do something positive and tell a positive story (which is what is too bad about how the comedy turned out), but some trust building and discourse like this will be important to it moving forward more smoothly. ( and I appreciate Errol responding here in the interest of discourse.)

    We do need to tell stories about teaching that resonate, that celebrate, and that honor what we do–that I know is true. I’m sure that’s what was intended here. It’s disappointing it didn’t work out that way.

  26. I don’t know much, if anything, about The Bammy Awards except the discussions I have seen all over twitter this weekend. Tonight I saw more “discussion” about the actual event and so I took a few moments and watched the clip of the entertainment being discussed so passionately here. While I really don’t want to wade into a discussion of an event I didn’t attend, it has been an hour since I watched this video and I am still upset by it. When we stand up and speak in front of a group of anyone – educators, parents, general public our words have weight. It doesn’t matter who we are, what we’ve done, many people don’t know any of those things. Lisa Murphy chose her commentary, her “jokes”, and her stories. I found it in extremely poor taste. I can’t imagine sitting in the audience and being subject to that. In no way should a group of educators be asked to come together to celebrate education, students, educators and families and have this be part of that celebration. Pernille, you called it. It needed to be said. Saying nothing means we find this acceptable. It certainly was not.

  27. Thank you Pernille for opening this discussion. I too had some uncomfortable moments during the event with the comedy and Obama video. They just didn’t seem to extend the theme of what’s right in education.

    I was also saddened that the three main teacher groups (elementary, middle and high school) were not acknowledged live. I understand that with the high number of categories, time is limited. Yet it is their work, stories and devotion to their students that provides the backbone of our educational system.

    Whatever our individual thoughts are of the ceremony, I think what we can all celebrate was the opportunity to get together with fellow educators, whether they were old friends or people in our PLN we finally had the chance to meet in person. Listening to others’ education stories, ideas and dreams always fills my education bucket.

  28. Thank you everyone for your passionate commentary. I did not set out to get an apology from the Bammys, nor did I set out to discuss whether or not awards are appropriate for anyone. I needed to get the thoughts I had swirling in my head out and the way I do that is by blogging. I think there were many wonderful moments this weekend and also at the event, that is why I tried to keep my post reflective, honest, but also not the bashing kind. I am grateful for Errol responding to my concerns and I have faith that moving forward the Academy will consider mine and others’ feedback as to how to make this what they envisioned in their mission statement. Whether I will be a part of it is up for the future to decide. Please feel free to add your opinion but keep it civil. Discussion is wonderful when done in a polite, respectful manner, much like we teach our students.

    1. This is a perfect example of what blogging is about. You really provoked thought and conversation. Plus, whether you meant to or not, you encouraged further writing.

      After responding to Angela Maiers post, I decided to write about the Bammys myself, even though I wasn’t a participant. Thanks for sparking a solid debate. Here’s my post for anyone who is interested:

    2. Thanks again, Pernille for the candor. Thanks further, for your constructive tone. This morning I posted my most current thoughts about all that has transpired so far on the 2013 Bammy Awards. I’ll re-post here since this is the epicenter of the discussion:

      A Surprising Thing Happened on the Way to Celebrating What’s Right in American Education

      I have been looking forward to this blog post for weeks. The thought of all of the good feelings that would be generated by this year’s Bammy Awards.The potential impact of honoring so much of what’s right in American Education in one collective event. The possibilities offered by technology for sharing the celebration of the honorees with people all over the world through a live video stream was more exciting than my limited writing skills allow me to fully express. The two words we heard most frequently leading up to the Bammy Awards were “so excited.” I’m so excited, we’re excited, our team is excited, my students are so excited,the board is so excited to be participating in the Bammy Awards. It was clear from the tweets and emails coming in that people — many people across the education village — were excited about the Bammy Awards that would be presented on Saturday night. But somewhere between “so excited” and “this year the Bammy Award goes to…” the event and the excitement took a detour.

      It’s still early in the feedback loop to say definitively what happened. When we look back a year from now, will we call it a glitch or a catastrophe? Only time will tell, but it’s pretty safe to say that when significant voices express that they didn’t appreciate the “entertainment,” that selection was probably not the best. As the executive producer of the Bammy Awards, the buck stops with me. Ergo it follows that I owe an apology to the people who were deeply put off by the humorous performances intended to provide a mental and emotional break from the relentless pace of 24 substantive and meaningful presentations. To all of you who were not only not entertained but offended, I pause from the celebration to say I’m sorry and to thank you for your candid feedback on what needs to be done to get the spirit of the Bammy Awards back into the body of the event. To Lisa Murphy, a dedicated, accomplished, highly respected early childhood leader with a passion for speaking the truth as she sees it with a sharp, irreverent wit, I also apologize for miscasting your amazing talent and commitment to children.

      We understand that recovering from disappointment is a process and we’ll walk through that process together. Undoubtedly there will be more lessons to be gleaned from the 12-minute detour we took during the celebration, and everyone who supports the Bammy Awards should rest assured that no one will be devouring those lessons more voraciously than I will.

      What’s also clear is that an enormous amount of good transpired in the other 125 minutes that made up Saturday’s Bammy Awards.

      Scores of educators were honored and beamed with a mixture of pride and humility as they held the weight of the Bammy Award that became a tangible symbol of the fact that their contributions and the contributions of all of their peers in their sector of the education village truly matter.

      There were audible gasps and celebratory shouts as honorees heard their names called and the audience showered them with applause, acknowledgement and recognition. You could feel the love and support coming from across the education village, being laser-focused for the first time on the importance of education professionals often overlooked, like school nurses, Head Start staff and school librarians.

      There were stories of people at home who couldn’t attend the Bammy Awards but who watched on the streaming video from as far away as India and were inspired, motivated and proud to say that they are part of this education community.

      There were also stories of people who found out via a tweet, text or call that they had received the honor and almost fell out of their seats with joy and excitement.

      Best of all, there were those who used their moment at the center of the village square to acknowledge all of the educators not present who are doing extraordinary work across this nation who deserved to be standing on the stage right with them.

      Post-event, I have personally received emails from many of the prominent leaders in education who attended — emails peppered with words and phrases like “much needed,”“wonderful event,”“delighted to be a part of this,”“classy,”“long overdue,” “a wonderful celebration,”“we need to do more of this,” and “looking forward to next year.”

      But for me the most meaningful feedback received on the event came from Mallory Fundora, the first student to ever receive a Bammy Award. The presentation was the last of the evening, intended to remind us all that at the end of the day, we do all of this in service of raising the next generation. I’ll let her words close out this blog post.

      “I feel like winning this award means that people take me seriously for the work that I am doing, instead of looking at me like I’m just a kid. I want people in the room since they are in education to understand that there are other kids like me in their classrooms and they could be overlooking them every day. I started Project Yesu when I was in the 6th grade; from then to now I have had 14 teachers (not counting my teachers for this year) out of those 14 teachers only 3 of them ever showed any interest in what I am doing in Uganda. This year it’s different, after my teachers found out that I won a Bammy, it’s like they realize that I am for real….

      Mallory Fundora,

      Founder of Project Yesu

  29. Pernille, It was great to hear your comments and understand your perspective. One of the goals that you had for the Bammy’s was to introduce your husband to the many new friends you have from Twitter, Blogging, and other Social Interaction. From your post here, I see that at least you accomplished this goal.

    I’m sure your children were happy to have you home. I know that you are happy to be home. And, not only did you get to introduce your husband to new friends, but also the Global Read Aloud is reaching further and further because of the Bammy’s.

    Keep up the good work for your students. You’ve encouraged and inspired many others with your perspective, and with your other policies–no homework, no grades, no punishment.

    The Bammy’s will mature as they go through the growing pains.

    1. An Open Letter to the Open Letter to the Bammy Awards

      On Wednesday I had a meeting with a group of very experienced and influential educators to debrief on the Bammy Awards. They were extremely busy people, so I deeply appreciated that they took the time to come together and discuss their experience at the Bammy Awards. Since they were physically there, their feedback was particularly relevant.

      As the meeting began, I saw the standard Oreo-cookie formula unfolding: Start with the positive, give ‘em the negative, close with the positive. As we shifted from the initial “positive” stage to the white of the cookie, I could feel the leader of the group struggling to be tactful and diplomatic. I felt badly about cutting her off mid-sentence, but thought I could ultimately make the experience less painful for all by reminding her that I’m a recovering New Yorker, with genetically adapted thick skin who prefers his criticism straight, no chaser. You could literally hear the tension dissipate as she expressed great relief at being freed to just speak candidly — and for exactly one hour we did.

      We covered some of the same issues we’ve been talking about online this week and I left with an invaluable list of things to work on to make next year’s Bammy Awards better. I thanked them profusely, followed with a thank you note and I thank them again now for their feedback. But what was most noteworthy about the meeting is that it was set up by *them* not me. This was how they chose to deliver feedback.

      As I’ve spent this week responding to feedback, reviewing lessons learned and reflecting on all that has transpired, one pivotal question has surfaced: is social media an ideal vehicle for giving “constructive feedback?” Presumably most teachers would agree that it would be bad practice, perhaps even malpractice, to bring a student up in front of the entire school assembly to discuss where and how that student failed at a project. Most teachers, managers, trainers, parents, coaches and people committed to help others grow and improve embrace Vince Lombardi’s axiom, “praise in public, criticize in private.” This of course primarily applies to scenarios in which the intent is to be constructive. If the intent is to be destructive, then certainly the public spectacle wins hands down.

      As we all know, being evaluated sits somewhere on the pleasure scale between a root canal and a colonoscopy. Being publicly evaluated heightens the experience. Perhaps this is why there was such an uproar when the LA Times decided to publish local teacher evaluations “to help” teachers and the community improve education.

      Most people can tell the difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism and most people also know that there are few things more cliché than destructive intent being labeled as “constructive criticism.”

      The fact that Wednesday’s group of educators (all of whom have access to Twitter) chose to share their feedback with me directly and offline communicated to me unequivocally that they were committed to be constructive and wanted to help. In the New York neighborhood where I was raised, we would call them “stand-up guys.” They are a classy, caring group and I thank them again.

      That said, let’s be clear: we are very interested in constructive feedback, no matter how harsh or stinging, painful or deflating, public or private. It’s the only way we can continually improve, so we park the ego and lean into it. However, we all know that there are those who simply don’t like awards, don’t like the Bammys, and don’t want the Bammy Awards to exist. There are also those who are basically okay with the Bammy Awards, but have a very different vision for how it should be executed, and there are hundreds of flavors in that box. So when I look at a post, the first question I ask is, what is the real intent?

      I have little confidence that exchanging blog posts with those who see awards as the great Satan will be moved by any thoughts I might share, so I continue to watch those discussions from the bleachers.

      In the case of this most recent “open letter” to the Bammys, I must tell you that I’m scratching my head. Justin, you and I have collaborated in the past, and we know how to reach each other. Certainly all concerns expressed here could have been taken up with us directly. The posting of another “open letter” was an interesting choice.

      We’ve all seen the open letter used over time with constructive intent. However, the aim is typically to apply social pressure to recalcitrant individuals, groups, organizations, companies, institutions, etc.

      The pivotal word here is “recalcitrant.” Not sure we qualify as recalcitrant people unless we count being committed to continue to honor educators across the community in creative and spirited ways. I apologize for my long-winded preface. With that, let’s look at a few of your points.

      Most of the issues you raised have already been addressed, so I won’t rehash them. I think the point that really demands examination is the challenge to the “process.” What strikes me about the challenge is the assumption that *any* selection process is without flaws or biases. As you well know, popularity, name recognition, and money are how we select people for the highest offices in our nation. Yes, the Bammy Awards process is almost certainly imperfect. Fortunately, the stakes are a lot lower than selecting a senator or a president. That said, the notion that the selection process is simply about popularity just doesn’t add up. BTW…thanks for doing the math to make the point. Let’s just look at a few of the categories you laid out.

      Middle school teacher: There are two highly connected educators in that category with 13,000 and 15,000 followers respectively. The Bammy Award did not go to either of them. It went to Megan Monsen. Perhaps you have heard of Megan Monsen before. I had not and would be surprised if many people have. In fact, Megan was self-nominated and apparently was advanced by two separate Academy panels who voted because of the pretty impressive ways that Megan is making a difference, which are documented here:

      Substance: 1 Popularity: 0

      The elementary school teacher category is another interesting place to check in.
      There were some amazing connected educators in this category including the author of the original open letter to the Bammys, Pernille, who has 11, 000 followers, and Erin Klien with 27,000. The Bammy Award went to Traci Blazosky, whom I couldn’t even find on Twitter, but is very involved across the education community as documented here:

      Substance: 2 Popularity: 0

      Finally, only one educator took home two Bammy Awards last Saturday. That was Jesse Hagopian, a teacher. He had a grand total of 700 Twitter followers, which is anemic by Twitter rock-star standards. Suggesting that Jesse’s 700 is the cause for his selection, while ignoring the well-documented ways in which he is making a difference, is a disservice to him. Indeed, he was also in Washington last week to testify before Congress. Pretty safe to say he was not invited to Capitol Hill because he has 700 Twitter followers. Jesse is an extraordinary educator, doing extraordinary work. (Google him.)

      Substance: 3 Popularity: 0

      I must tell you that I have been both surprised and pleased to see how well the system works. Though there is certainly the potential for connected educators to skew the results, the fact that the board of governors cast the deciding votes seems to neutralize that bias. The board of governors is not interested in popularity contests. They are committed to identifying people who are truly making a difference.

      Are there cases where popularity has likely swayed the vote? Did Hilary Clinton win a Senate seat in New York in part because of name recognition? Let’s keep it real… of course. But to suggest that the Bammy Awards is just a popularity contest rigged in favor of connected educators doesn’t pass the smell test. Indeed, many of the most popular connected educators with the highest number of followers are not even among the finalists. Moreover, to sweepingly make this claim dishonors and trivializes both the tangible work being done by the honorees who were selected and the time taken by the dedicated educators and advocates on the board of governors who cast their votes.

      But at some level, this whole discussion grossly misses the point. The aim of the Bammy Awards transcends the individual Bammy Award recipients. The main thrust of the Bammy Awarsd is around the getting together to celebrate the collective work being done across the entire field. It’s about celebrating the inherent interdependence we all have on each other. It’s about acknowledging all of the things that are right in American education.

      I understand and accept that there are many other ways to honor educators, and I support any program that is making a positive contribution. If the Bammys are not for you, that’s fine; don’t participate, resign from the council of peers and support the programs that resonate with you. You are free to walk around the airplane.

      However, here is the elephant in the room on the “open letter.” While some are using social media to flip the model, focusing on criticizing in public, every single day we are receiving dozens of heartfelt emails from educators at all levels of the education community who deeply appreciate the Bammy Awards, who loved the event and many who even loved the now controversial humor. The photos taken at the Bammy awards have now been shared by over 25,000 people in the last two days since they were posted. Many of these wonderfully supportive educators have told us that they are heartbroken and deeply disappointed about the discussion that has transpired on line. Do their views count too?

      Why have we not heard from many of them you might ask? Like Wednesday’s educators they are not inclined to jump into the spectacle of rancorous public debate. For them “praise in public, criticize in private” is still a worthy principle by which to live, social media notwithstanding.

      These days the vocal few often dominate the public impression of where any community stands. We are grateful to the people who are contacting us every single day to offset that perception and encourage us to persist, and so we will.

      The notion that celebrating educators has to be either this way or that way is a false choice. Accepting this way AND that way AND maybe a few others is the path to reconciliation.

      Finally, this has been an interesting week to say the least. As important as these discussions are, I’m acutely aware that time spent laying down pixels is time *not* spent actually “doing” some of the important work that truly makes a difference in education. While we have been counting Twitter followers and itemizing faux pas, there are some who have actually spent this week doing work that was really meaningful and productive. I’m jealous. Time to go back to work!

      1. Errol, I believe you to be someone who is abundantly passionate about his work. However, each time you post here, you seem more and more defensive. Instead of this dissertation, you might have just said, “Thanks for the feedback; we’re working to make next year’s Bammys the best ever.” The “Substance 1, Popularity 0” stuff smacks of arrogance. Speaking only for myself, this only serves to muddle your message.

  30. Making my final rounds and just discovered your post, Mark.

    Indeed, I am very passionate about two things that have been discussed here — the vital role of education and the necessity for authentic, civil communication. I believe both are critical for any civilization to survive. As Pernille expressed, her intention was to invite an open discussion. As you know, authentically open discussions are typically messy and involve diverse views. I have publicly apologized where I felt an apology was due and pushed back on ideas that I felt were misguided. Personally, I would label that authentic communication, not arrogance.

    Candidly, the suggestion that the ideal reply would have been, “thanks for the feedback we’re working to make next year’s Bammy Awards the best ever” strikes me as a manicured, patronizing public relations response that is vacuous and does nothing to advance real communication or mutual understanding.

    I understand that arrogance is the belief that one is better than other people, and that humility is the opposite of arrogance. But “false humility” is just arrogance in a different suit. In my neck of the woods, when we truly value and respect each other as equals we are willing to engage authentically in the difficult, protracted, conversations that lead to mutual understanding. Comments intended to simply “placate” suggest to me that a person doesn’t trust, respect or value the other person enough to take the time or risk the exposure of engaging authentically.

    Pernille, thanks again for your thoughtful comments, your gracious replies and for allowing me to participate in this discussion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s