A little over a year ago I wrote about some issues with award ceremonies in schools. I shared some of the things I was learning about rewards, punishments, and competition in schools with the staff at my middle school. We discussed it and are looking at alternatives that work best for all kids. Teachers were wondering what students thought about all this. I had discussed these issues a few times with my advisory group and they were excited thinking of different ways to show appreciation and honor all students without leaving anyone out and without providing rewards to everyone. They actually are getting the idea that if you reward something then the reward becomes more important than the good things you were doing in the first place! But we wanted to see what other students thought so my advisory kids came up with some questions for everyone.
Below are seven of the eight questions (I’ll share results from the 8th one below because the answers aren’t graphable) and the results. About four advisories submitted their responses on paper and 26 students took the online survey. So these results are from 73 students out of about 250 in our middle school, so almost 30% of our students have responded. (You can click on the graphs to see a larger graph image.)
These results are very telling. What they tell me is that we’ve convinced so many kids that to be appreciated they need a certificate or award. That doesn’t seem right. Years of getting awards, stickers, and other rewards for doing the right things have taught them that without those rewards we don’t appreciate them. A teacher whose blog I read recently wrote some blog posts about these same issues. When I shared our results with her she wrote a post on motivation and achievement. Here are some quotes from those who want to keep awards in our assemblies:
“It [the award] might make them [kids who don’t get awards] want to try harder.” (Cause we know that works, right? No!)
“I feel accomplished.” (So if you don’t get a certificate you don’t feel accomplished? What have we done?!)
“Not appreciated [if they don’t get an award]” (So I’ve been asking, how can we show each other appreciation without calling some out for an award and leaving others behind?)
“I feel awkward,” or “I feel embarrassed.” (When called up for an award.)
“I wouldn’t feel special.” (That one hurts.)
One person even wrote that they believe that being called up and put, “in the spotlight,” causes more bullying because kids in middle school can use anything against you.
These are just my opinions. What do you think? Have we damaged these kids or is this what we want of our children? I don’t want my son or my daughter waiting for an award to feel accomplished or to feel special. I’ve heard some people wonder what will happen when they get a job and their boss doesn’t give awards or doesn’t praise them. (Read this about praise to get some ideas on how to do it better.) If our kids have a growth mindset and can self assess and are confident in their abilities, then won’t they succeed?
The last question asked kids what they would like to see during our monthly assemblies. Here are some things they came up with:
stuff about bullying
having assemblies on holidays and special days
talent shows on our themes
Sounds good to me.