A reply to “Death of an awards ceremony”

A staff member in my school, Cam Hall (@Challmv) recently shared a link to a blog post by Chris Wejr (@mrwejr) about the death of the awards ceremony.  THe post is nearly two years old, but it is certainly one that echoes each year.  Here is my reponse ot my staff via email about the post.  I wrote it SUPER early in the morning, so I hope that it makes sense.

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I may be too tired typing this out, but I was thrilled to see you post this blog post, Cam.  I came across it about a year ago and thought it was an interesting read as well.  If you haven’t read it , please take the few minutes to read it and give it a scan.  Some very thought provoking questions…

I know that our school has done awards ceremonies each year, and that the tradition of recognizing kids is what we all want to see happen (in some form or another).  I know that if my daughter was to be recognized for an award of ANY kind, I would be a thrilled parent and try to be at the school to see her receive the recognition.  But I have thought for a little while now that the academic awards ceremony doesn’t really fit our assessment practices that we have been striving towards in cycle 3 and 4 of AISI (Alberta Initiative for School Improvement).  If marks are not what we want students to strive for, then why do we promote them at the end of the school year?  If we all to be grading students according to outcomes ONLY….. what then?  Would we still have awards for those students who are “meeting grade level expectations and outcomes”??  And what of the honor roll now?  Our district approach (as I have heard from our superintendant) is that we should not be giving students zeros.  There is a HUGE discussion that we can have here, but I want to ask of your thoughts on how this affects the honor roll.  No zeros means grades do not accurately reflect student achievement in some cases.  If we look at grades at the end of term two, lets say, are these all “authentic” honor roll students??  How can we tell?  Is it now subjective?

And each year, we struggle with holding the awards.  I know that I have had several conversations with some of you who have asked the same question…. And the kids ask this too…. “why do we recognize all the smart people and the athletes at award ceremonies?”…. or… “why is one award ceremony held DURING school time, and another AFTER?  Is one more or less important that we make the time for it??”  Good questions….

The blog post asks the similar questions…. Why do we present awards to certain students?  What does this do to help learning in schools?  Yes, there are CTS (carrer and technology studies) awards, but admittedly to less of a fanfare than they rightly deserve.  I think that the CTS awards are not held to as high of a standard as the oh-so-coveted 90% and higher awards or lamps of learning or medallions or whatever.  Again, my thoughts only.  How do we get the kids in guitar class to all be recognized as equals to all the kids in the grade seven math for their accomplishments in class and those in phys ed classes?  Can we acknowledge them all in their own way somehow??  Certainly a daring and daunting task…..

These are merely my late night ramblings, but I thought I would share.  Delete this, ignore this, come yell at me or join the conversation –I welcome all.

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Your thoughts?

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