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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Recognizing Every Student

 I just want to put it out there...I'm not one of those "participation trophy" people.  I feel like there is so much intrinsic value in things like team sports, extracurricular activities, and music lessons.  I just think the experience is enough in itself!  However, in our classrooms, we are with these children for the better part of nine months of the year.  You learn a lot about them, they learn a lot about you, and they learn a lot about each other and who they really are.

There is an increasing push to "recognize" all students at the end of the year, and I can understand this.  Especially when they aren't on the honor roll, and caught the flu (so no perfect attendance there) but their parents took time off work to come to your class "end of the year" celebration/ceremony.

We always had a grade level awards day, usually together as a grade level in the cafeteria or other large area.  Then, we would head back to our individual classrooms to give out other awards that we didn't have time for as a grade level.  These were things like participating in Student Council, being a part of the Garden Club, etc...  But, these kids have been a community for a year, you've been a family...why not recognize things that we see as strengths in each other?

My first year teaching I toyed with the idea of superlatives.  I was going to let my kids vote, but I also wanted to recognize the kids myself.  So, I came to a compromise.  I'd let the kids vote (because that means a lot to them), but I also would stop before each award and talk about the student for a minute.  A little brag time, if you will.

I made it fun by not revealing who it was until the end.  For example, I might say something like, "Wow, this student amazes me on a daily basis.  They are always looking to help others, to push in a chair for someone, or to pick up a dropped pencil.  This student is always asking for ways they can help me around the classroom as well.  They exemplify what it means to be a good, Garrett, you are our "Helping Hands." (and I'd have them come down, give them a hug, and give them the award.

That little snippet, that little tid-bit about what that students means to you and to the rest of the room really means a lot to that kid.  It also means a lot to their parents who took time off of work to come to your celebration. I find this especially true for parents who sit through the entire grade level awards ceremony knowing that their child isn't getting honor roll or perfect attendance.  They are simply there to support their child, to lift them up for completing another year of school, and you just made their day by taking just 45 seconds to point out something great about their kid.

So, as the year is winding down, think about how you can recognize something great in each of your students.  Whether you choose the reason for recognition or you allow the students to.

You can make up your own awards, but if you do need a place to start, I have some superlative awards that are editable with a voting sheet for your kiddos.

No matter how you decide to recognize your kiddos this year, they will appreciate it so much!

Best of luck as you begin to wind down the year!  (At least my Northern Hemisphere friends!)

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