Awards, Grades and Competition
I’ve been reading some great blogs and comments challenging some of schools most treasured traditions. Within my classroom and with the support of my principal I was able to abolish grades in an effort to support student learning. I try to foster cooperation in my classes because we are, after all, learning the same things. Why not help each other? I mean, I’m only one person so if we all help each other then everyone will learn more and go farther. And besides, if we cooperate, work together and share the learning then everyone has a better opportunity to learn! It’s not like anyone is trying to patent some new Science technique, the standards are for ALL my students. Makes sense to me. But then you come to awards ceremonies and that’s one that makes me uncomfortable. We’re so entrenched to offer quick praise and our kids are so used to it that if someone doesn’t say, “good job,” or “here’s a certificate for that,” then our kids feel unappreciated. Come on. We can show our kids that we appreciate them better than saying good job all the time or giving some kids an award some of the time. I don’t give my students rewards. I give them feedback and I show appreciation of hard work and the things they produce and create by telling giving them information no quick and useless praise. But every month I still have to attend and sit through our awards assembly. I’ve never liked them. I see the discomfort in all the kids. Some of the kids who win awards, despite feeling proud, still have to deal with being “uncool” because those that didn’t get an award save face by being “cool.” Sure beats crying or feeling bad, I guess!
I want to share some blogs that I’ve been reading about schools where the discussion to change the way they honor kids is happening or how they have actually changed the way they do awards. I have to smile because all the blogs I’m going to share are from Canadian teachers and principals. I’m sure there are schools here in America doing this but I guess I don’t read those blogs. If you know of any please share in the comment section of this post.
Here’s a great blog post by Nunavut_Teacher (that’s his Twitter handle) where he also links to some of the other posts I’m linking here (and more!): Another Intrinsic Killer: Awards Ceremonies
This blog by British Columbia principal, Mr. Wejr, sparked a Vancouver Sun article and an interview plus many reads and comments to his blogs about awards ceremonies: Death of an Awards Ceremony, Is Learning A Sport? and Questioning Awards and Grades.
Here’s a blog by an Alberta principal, Mr. Couros, that also hits home: Honouring All Students.
Those blogs have really got me thinking about my discomfort at awards assemblies and has me wondering how we can make those better. I’m sure we can come up with something better at my school but how do we start the conversation to change? At least it’s good to know there are schools out there doing different things and that we can look at them for ideas.
In Mr. Wejr’s “Is Learning A Sport?” blog post he shares a video from one of the comments he got. Great information in that video. I’m putting all three parts of that video on competition here for those who are interested. It’s well worth the watch and all three parts together last about 20 minutes.
I think these are things we need to know. What do you think?
Finally, I’d like to share another video that inspired me from another Canadian teacher who inspires me, Mr. Bower, and this one is only about two and half minutes and also well worth the watch:
Speaking of what our traditions are doing to kids, have your heard of the movie a Race to Nowhere? We had a screening of it here in Chimacum. Here’s a link to my reflection of that movie.
And here are some follow-up blog posts on what this post inspired:
Awards as a Habit
Not Against Competition
Assembly sans Awards
Shift Does Happen
I Celebrated Too Soon
For the 2012-13 school year we had monthly assemblies, led by our advisory groups (meaning planned by students), without a single awards or student of the month given out! We did do attendance awards and honor roll, but that was it.
And here’s a recent blog post on awards assemblies by Chris Wejr:
Is a School Awards Ceremony the BEST We Can Do?