Awards, being a teacher, students

Awards for All Means Students Still Lose – No Matter How Well Meaning They Are

I recently read Matt Ray’s post titled “Awards for All” (and I encourage you to read it as well) and although I know that his intent is pure, after all, he loves those children like no one else, I question the idea of providing an award for all.  Awards can be a sticky mess for me.  I know I don’t want them to be a part of my classroom, particularly from an academic standpoint, but I am also starting to believe that really we shouldn’t be concocting “fake” ones either   However, I got the impression that Matt created these rewards because otherwise his students may never actually receive any form of reward. So then that makes it ok, right?

This society with its emphasis on making someone the best means someone is always the loser.  This competition for adoration starts young, when students are subjected to enforced spelling bees and honor rolls in elementary school.  It is not that I am opposed to celebrating students, I just don’t understand the need to always give them something.  To hand them a diploma stating that they are indeed number 1 at whatever we decide.  While personality awards like the ones Matt discussed may seem harmless, I wonder, how does the child feel that really wanted to most improved in math and didn’t get it?  Or the child that has been working hard to be kind toward all but is not recognized for it?  We are also making losers out of them.

Awards are a slippery slope and while we as teachers think that it boosts students self-esteem, how often does it hurt it?  How often does the innocent title that we give a child in order to raise their self-esteem end up boxing them in instead?  When we choose to focus on one trait of a child’s personality, no matter how kind our intentions were, we in essence tell the child that this is the one thing I have noticed and all of these other things, you did not quite excel enough in.  Why the need for recognition?  Can we not through our own words and actions give these children enough recognition without having to do it in awards form?  Is this society so entrenched in awards and making losers out of someone that we have to make up awards just to reach all children?  If that is the case, then I guess I am not doing my part.


But How Do I Pick – EduBlog Awards

The year is waning and that means we are getting ready for all of the best of lists and with that also the 2011 EduBlog Awards.  And while I had the honor of being nominated last year as best new blog, and I even nominated my own choices, I just can’t pick this year.  There are so many blogs that uplift me, provoke me, inspire me, and there are so many blogs deserving of attention that I do not even know about.  So I thought instead of an official EduBlog nomination – sorry folks – I would just share some of my favorites…  If you have a moment, visit them and add them to your reader, they are worth it

Are You Ever Going to Stop, Nope There’s Another:  This goes to Matthew Ray who really picked up steam this year with his 60 days or something like that of blogging every day.  While you would expect that your posts would get diluted after writing so many days in a row,  his instead seemed to reach deeper as he started to question his own beliefs.  Keep writing Matt, and keep challenging yourself (and me!)

The Coolest Cat Around:  John T. Spencer blows my mind weekly at least.  The humble ramblings of an inspired teacher who realizes that being human is one of his biggest strengths calls us all to action.  I cannot count how many times I have tweeted one of his posts and I am just a little bit excited that I get to call him friend as well.

I Can’t Believe They Wrote That and Why Didn’t I: This has to go to the mind of Joe Bower who’s eloquence and passion for getting rid of gradesandtests, and other insanity in education pushes my own thinking.  Thought provoking, always interesting, and definitely worthy of your time.

You Mean This Can Actually Work?  Has to go to Chris Wejr and his blog where he brings on parents and students to discuss how to make a school a community while getting rid of rewards.  His leadership leads more than just his school.

Dude, I am So Stealing that Idea:  Goes to Josh Stumpenhorst who recently won Illinois State Teacher of the Year, (whoa), the coolest thing about Josh is that he runs an insanely successful classroom.  No homework, focus on learning and students rather than your basic social studies curriculum is what makes him stand out among the rest.  And I cannot count how many ideas I have stolen from him.

I Can’t Believe I Get To Be a Part of This:  Has to go to both the funky Cooperative Catalyst where I once in a while post my rants and the whole #Elemchat group.  Both of these groups push my thinking while still taking care of me.  The work that both groups do is invaluable to my world and the world of many others.

I Can’t Believe How Much Your Top Ten Made Me Think:  This goes to Edna Sackson, who with her top ten lists impacts me and my students regularly.  Not only is she insightful and focused; she really thinks about the process of teaching and pushes us all to change, all with the power of the top ten.

Man, You Must Not Need Any Sleep Because You Just Keep On Sharing:  Has to go to 3 people who share, share, and then share some more:  Kelly Tenkely, Larry Ferlazzo, and Richard Byrne.  How they manage to have day jobs and still share as many resources as they do is a puzzle to me, but I am grateful for what they do.

Your Words Keep Running Through My Mind and That is a Good Thing:  Goes to Angela Watson and her book “Awakened” as well as her blog.  I read that book and just nodded the whole way through.  Banish those thoughts of negativity and steer yourself toward positivity, I am not one for messages, but this one stuck.

Oh Dear There’s a Person in that Sub:  Mike writes this blog set in Michigan, but it chronicles the life of a substitute teacher and is one of the best new blogs I have read this year.  Many blog ideas and how I work with my own subs have been spurred from these posts.

Of course that is not all and I could keep on going, but that isn’t the point really.  I just wanted to share some of my favorites.  I have many more so my deep apologies if yours is one of my favorites and I missed it; I am only human.  And to all of those who do want to be nominated for the EduBlogs; I am sorry I wasn’t the one to do it.

Awards, being a teacher, punishment, rewards, students

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

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?