Monday, March 26, 2007

An Award Just for Breathing!

I received an interesting piece of mail in my box on Friday. It was from our Title I Aides (a new program at our school). They have apparently been asked to put together a list of awards to hand out to the kids who have been identified as Title I students and have been receiving services throughout the year. We were supposed to rate them according to "improved academic achievement" or "improved attitude towards academics". I heard through the grapevine that someone "in charge of the program" from district office stated that "Everyone will get an award."

I have a serious problem with this.

Lately I've been seeing articles on the net and in the news about how this generation of kids are more narcissistic and self-centered than any before. Some people are linking this to the constant push to let children believe that they are "special", and that everyone gets a trophy for participating. In other words, you show up and you are rewarded. And then I look out at my classroom, at kids who've been socially promoted year after year, at kids who could care less about education, kids who make no effort to do anything and who have learned helplessness down to an art, and I wonder if we didn't create these lazy toads by constantly giving them things they haven't earned.

And coming from a corporate background, where you get promotions and pay raises depending on what you actually produce, and what you can accomplish, I'm convinced they're in for a rude awakening unless they plan on camping out on mamma's sofa for the rest of their lives.

My parents would have kicked my ass if I'd acted like that. But then come to think of it, they never convinced me that I was any more special than anyone else and that I'd have to work to get anywhere in life. It wasn't going to be handed to me.

So, I'm looking at this list and I see kids like Rude Boy who've done NOTHING all year except throw his homework and in-class work away in the trash rather than turning it in, who've lied to me and his parents all year, who've been nothing but behavior problems. I look at the three kids tossed out of the after school tutoring program for horrible behavior, and for refusing to even open a book, lift a pencil or punch in a problem into a calculator. I've see kids who have simply sat in my classroom and sucked in air all year.

And we're going to give them an award?

There's a kid on the list who enrolled in school a week ago from out of state. We're giving him an award? For what? Moving to our area?

Granted there are some kids on there who really, honestly, have earned and deserved awards and I feel they should be celebrated like no body's business. Some of them, including Hockey Boy and Nascar Boy, have made incredible strides - from F's to C's. They've busted their butts, worked hard, and they deserve a big deal. But if the kids sitting next to them, who've done nothing, get an award, won't that make their award a lot less meaningful?

So...the kids that deserved it got a nod from me. The other ones I left blank. I'll let someone else come up with an award for them. Maybe they'll hand them out for breathing regularly.

And Nascar Boy and Hockey Boy and all the others in my classes who've made great strides? I'm going to come up with something special to reward them...I haven't figured out what yet, but I want them to know that what they've done is fantastic and, better yet, it's something they earned.


X said...

I totally agree with you. Absolutely.

My school has the gold, silver, and bronze honor rolls...should we create the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, and black ones too? That way, everyone with an average above 40% could get a certificate!

Liz Ditz said...

I so totally agree with you. YES improvement should be celebrated (and it is sometimes harder to move from Fs to Cs than from Cs to As).

Feh, an award for Rude Boy? The other kids will know the award is completely bogus.

EHT said...

You go girl!

Too many of us are forced to do these kinds of things "for the sake of the children".

It really gets my goat that we have procedures and requirements in place for retention and still are forced to allow students to go forward. We have been told for the third year in a row that we will be "seriously looked at" if we retain any fourth graders...the thinking is they will get caught at 5th grade when the test will catch them. The thing is no one seems to understand that the child will have another lost year because they aren't ready for 5th grade.

Madness, isn't it?

It we were a corporation we would be in chapter 7.

HappyChyck said...

Right on! I'm thankful that we don't give out "showing up" awards to students. However, we do pass them on to high school underprepared because they are not required to earn very many credits. Half right, I suppose. Thanks for reminding me that I DO need to give some special kudos to those underdogs who've been working their tails off...

Mamacita (The REAL one) said...

You are so absolutely correct that I have no words to say just how absolutely correct you are. I've argued this point for years.

It doesn't matter, by the way. These kids will still get awarded. Brought your pencil three days in a row? Limo ride for YOU, buddy! What a crock of. . . . well, you know.

Mrs. T said...

I am in total agreement with you. I ever so crudely refer to these kinds of awards as the "I Found My Ass With Both Hands" awards.

Tracy W said...

In addition to what everyone else said, I also noted the statement that:
We were supposed to rate them according to "improved academic achievement" or "improved attitude towards academics".

So if a kid started off the year with perfect academic achievement and/or 100% enthusiastic about academics, and maintained this standard throughout the year, they don't get an award for that.

I'm all for rewarding drastic turnarounds. Just it seems unfair to ignore sustained excellence.