Sunday, April 24, 2011

A New Kind of Awards Ceremony

A tweet held me to this blog post by The Bearded Teacher (aka Timothy Patrick Monreal). I had never visited his bog before but found a strong connection as I read his post …But Awards Feel So Good. I left this comment for him and then decided to write my own post about award ceremonies.
"As I was reading your post an idea come to me. Why not have students create awards for themselves? Let each student reflect on who (s)he has been as a learner during the year and design an award that is suitable. Have each student write a short blurb about why the award is being given, collect all the awards and blurbs, and use them at the awards ceremony."

I had a flashback to high school and our National Honor Society Induction Ceremony. I remember sitting in one of the rows in my high school auditorium and hoping that I would be one of the inductees. The way it worked in our school was a student who was already a member would walk down a row and then stop and put the NHS collar on the newly inducted member. I can remember the feelings I felt on that day as clearly as if they were happening to me right now. And that was some 40 years ago. I was nervous. I had my fingers tightly crossed. I kept a silly smile plastered on my face. Twice a member from our NHS walked down my row and I was thinking, “Yes, I am going to be picked!”

Well, needless to say, I wasn’t picked and I was devastated. I silently shed tears as the rest of the induction ceremony took place. Funny thing is, while I truly believed I was worthy, my grades were not of the standard that would have let me be inducted into the National Honor Society at my school or any other.

Please understand I’m not totally against organizations like the NHS, I am just sharing how deeply I was impacted by an awards ceremony and how vividly I remember how I felt that day, forty years ago. I spent several weeks after that ceremony in a funk. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t study, and I kept telling myself I was not worthy. It was something I truly had wanted, and I had been denied.

Now suppose I had attended a school where every student received an award, but no one else decided on those awards. Each student had to figure out on his/her own what award should be bestowed on him/her.

Had I attended a high school where the awards process was handled like that, I would have had to take a very honest look at myself and think about my own learning. What was it that I truly excelled in? What had I done that would merit an award? I probably would have focused on one project I did in biology lab on fruit fly genetics, or maybe I would have given myself a “Stick to It Award” for completing a knitting project for my art class. But wait – should there be any award presented at all? Shouldn’t my intrinsic satisfaction will a job well done, have been enough? I wish I could say, “Yes, I know I did a good job, and that is the only award I need!” But unfortunately I was raised in a culture where … Awards Feel So Good.

As we approach the end of another school year and the end-of-the-year awards ceremonies, what are your thoughts on awards?