About a month ago at church they announced that there was going to be a free throw contest which brought back some memories of my free throw experience when I was in 7th grade. My sisters and I were known as a unit. We are all 14 months apart and still travel in a pack most of the time. But there is one thing that separates us, or should I say me from the other two. Most people that knew us, knew that Sister One and Sister Two were athletic and Sister Three, well let’s just say she was a great supporter of her sisters!
I remember that Sunday back in 1979 because it was one of the few times I succeeded at anything in the world of sports. Shelly threw her 10 shots and then Lori and then I threw mine. We stole the show and won first, second and third place! Talk around school was about those Strawn girls. They must be great basketball players.
But here is the rest of the story…
We had received a call that Sunday afternoon and it seemed as if no one wanted to participate in the free throw contest for our age group. Dad made us go and being older, my sisters knew that the winner would have to compete at the state level and so they didn’t even try. That explains how I won first place when I only made three out of ten shots!
This time of year, schools are holding awards assemblies and passing out certificates for accomplishments during the year. I am not against award assemblies but I will say there are a couple of things to consider as a leader of a school.
First, ask yourself if one student will practically steal every award given? If so, plan on a nice little ceremony for his family. It’s no fun sitting there, as a parent and definitely not as a classmate clapping for one kid. Besides, the first time that kid meets failure, he won’t know what to do with his “perfect” self and it will give him a false security to think he is better than everyone else.
Second, don’t create awards so that we as adults feel better about every kid having a false sense of accomplishment. Kids can spot this type of trickery and it doesn’t mean anything to them if they didn’t earn it.
Third, consider ways to set individual goals with and for students or as a whole class that can be measured all year long. Get involved in conversations with students, parents and community members that help students engage in meaningful learning experiences. Intentionally set time aside to for student reflection and talk about effort and its relationship to the pay off.
Fourth, don’t make out a certificate for them when they are finished. My certificate for winning the regional free throw contest was a joke because deep down I knew shooting a basket was not my strength. The organization needed a winner more than I needed that certificate. An alternative to the all school awards assembly is to celebrate small wins as the year progresses, reflect on what else needs to occur for success and continually connect the world to the learning and the learning to the world.
Success isn’t found in a trophy or a certificate. Success is found when we know enough about our kids that we connect their strengths with information and experiences that helps each of them grow into the person they were meant to be.
Interested in talking more about this and other topics for school leaders? Contact me at email@example.com