One of the benefits to our downtime in the summer is that we actually HAVE downtime. I have the opportunity to dive deeper into data, start plans for next year, and spend some time deep cleaning/organizing my office. This week, I also had a reminder that even when I think I’ve covered my bases, I can still miss the obvious. Like the unintended impact of awards, or what we’ve been calling them…student celebrations.
So when I had a parent email me about needing to meet…I’m not going to lie, I may have sighed. I wasn’t in parent mode, I was in organize bunny mode!
Ya’ll. I genuinely think this was another sign from Jesus that I needed to fill my summer principal bucket. I had emailed this mother her daughter’s test results earlier in the week and they were REALLY good, so I wasn’t sure exactly what this meeting was going to be about. This sweet momma spent about an hour with me, going over her daughter’s previous year…making sure I recognized the significance of her standardized testing success. She was in RTI, they had worried about a learning disability, she had tutoring every.single.week. She told me about how her daughter suffered with low self-esteem, because of how hard her year was. She told me how she hated awards days and tried to miss school when we had our “student celebrations”. How on the last day, when we had final celebrations, her sweet daughter wouldn’t even make eye contact with her as she lined up for class. She didn’t receive an award the entire year.
I literally teared up. How could I have failed this sweet girl? How could I have missed that happening?
Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT an everyone gets a cookie kinda girl. I frequently told my students that there was only one Superbowl MVP, and that even Troy didn’t get it every year. But…this isn’t the NFL. This is elementary school. There wasn’t one way that she could be celebrated all year long? There wasn’t one opportunity to for her to have been recognized in front of her peers?
I find that hard to believe, but this year, it was apparently true.
This wasn’t even the point of this mom’s visit. No, she actually came in to tell me about how one of her daughter’s teachers had lifted her up, academically and emotionally through the year, in particularly during the testing season. She had taken her for ice cream the weekend before the big tests, and was taking her to lunch this next week to celebrate her success. She wanted to make sure I knew how much that meant to her and her family. Moving forward for the next year, she asked that her daughter be placed with someone who could meet those needs again, just in case she struggled.
Luckily, I have a staff full of amazing teachers and could reassure her.
I knew her visit wasn’t with the intent to make me feel bad or feel guilty. But it was a heartfelt reminder that even on days where we think we’re “celebrating”, there are kids who struggle and feel left out. They notice what is going on. They are well aware of their academic inadequacies.
We can do better. We WILL do better.
I don’t know what the solution is, but never again do I want to look a momma in the eye and realize how I allowed something that was meant to “celebrate”, hurt her and her student.
Chris Wejr is my go to guru on this topic and he has written a plethora of really thought-provoking posts, should you want another perspective.
- Rethinking Awards Ceremonies | The Wejr Board
- Death of an Awards Ceremony | The Wejr Board
- A New Era of Ceremonies | The Wejr Board
- Recognizing ALL Students – The Movement | The Wejr Board
- Is Learning A Sport? | The Wejr Board
- Questioning Awards and Grades | The Wejr Board
PS: I absolutely asked the mom if I could share this story here, 🙂 just in case you were wondering.