reflection, rewards

All You Have to Do is Show Up – A Tale of Perfect Attendance

When I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress last summer I mistakenly assumed that all posts would seamlessly transfer.  I have since found the error in my thinking and have decided to re-post some of my more discussed posts that didn’t survive the move.  This is one of those posts.

Today the debate turned to perfect attendance rewards, something that seems innocent enough on the surface, but can elicit debate in even the most timid teachers. I was lucky to engage in a great dialogue with a trusted colleague but also turned to educators around the world to get their input. The judgment was swift and to the point, most were vehemently opposing them, lambasting them for what they thought they really were; bandaid awards to those students who may not otherwise receive an award.

So why is rewarding students for perfect attendance not a great concept? The ideas were many:

  •  It is one more way for schools to separate the winners from the losers in a public forum.
  • It rewards students just for shwoing up, not effort, work ethic or learning. What life skill does that teach since there are no jobs that reward you merely for showing up.
  • Perfect attendance award does nothing but encourage students to come to school even when they are sick enough to stay home or contagious.
  • It makes losers out of the kids where life situations prevent them from coming to school; funerals, court, counselor appointments etc.
  • We are rewarding kids based on their parents behavior; whether they can get them to school or not. Why disappoint the kids further that already are battling with parents that may not be able to supply reliable transportation.
  • If this is the only thing we can rewards students for then we are not spending enough time recognizing or uncovering their talents.
  • And finally, my own opinion; if we have to reward students to come to school then what value are we placing on schools? School is meant to be a place of stimulation, of excitement, of amazing discoveries. Not a place where you show up just so you get a reward. Not a place that has to have a reward tied to it as theperetual carrot. While I agree that we should celebrate those students that do show up day in and day out, I just don’t think that an award eceremony is the right venue for it.

Add your voice to the debate! Is a perfect attendance award ceremony simply a cute certificate that does no harm, is it no big deal, or is it another way to compartmentalize students?

4 thoughts on “All You Have to Do is Show Up – A Tale of Perfect Attendance”

  1. My daughter has had perfect attendance for all 9 years at her k-8 school. She declined trips to Disneyland, extended weekends with friends and sports teams, and a variety of other exciting and entertaining events because she is committed to showing up for her education. Yes, she has earned As in all of her honors classes, she is a celebrated athlete, and has earned a number of academic and other awards…. but she is incredibly proud of her perfect attendance. She didn’t “just show up;” sometimes it was a real feat. I believe that feat is absolutely 100% worthy of acknowledgement and public recognition. Yes, in life there are many things that prevent us from attaining our goals, but that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize the kids who are able to attain those goals. Honoring one child does not make anyone else a loser unless others treat them as such. My other 2 children do not have perfect attendance, and they don’t care. They think it’s pretty extraordinary and highly commendable that their sister does have perfect attendance, and they think she has definitely earned an award at the 8th grade assembly. This is healthy.

  2. I always used to say that the Perfect Attendance Award was sponsored by Childrens Tyelenol.

  3. I am a student in junior high who has had perfect attendance my entire school career. The award is not just so some kids can get an award just so they can say “Look I got an award! Yay!” to make them feel good about not having good grades. I have had all theses years of perfect attendance and have had all A’s every single year. You should not take the award from everyone. The award is to recognize dedication. My immune system is like a cement wall, nothing is getting inside and it protects me greatly. I have never gone to school sick, I haven’t puked since preschool, and I have never had an infection or the flu in my entire life. Any kid that gets this award deserves it 100%.

  4. When I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked on the
    -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now
    each time a comment is added I get four emails with the exact same comment.
    There has to be an easy method you can remove me from that service?

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