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PREVIEW: Why End of Year School Awards May Not be a Good Thing By Mariaemma Pellulo-Willis, M.S.

school_awards_150sqThe last day of school often celebrates the many accomplishments that have been achieved throughout the year with class parties and awards ceremonies.

How many of you remember receiving awards and what that felt like? How many of you never once received a school award…what did that feel like?

I happen to have the perfect learning style formula that made me an A student from the time I started kindergarten. Every year, I received award after award. I remember during my 8th grade year one of my classmates saying to me, “Please, please, let me win the ‘read most books’ award. You always get lots of awards, please let me get this one.” So I did. I made sure that I read fewer books than she did, and she got that award.

What is it like for students to watch others get award after award and never receive one themselves? What is it like for the parents of those students?

I attended an awards ceremony a few years ago at a school that is known for valuing individual learning styles. I was looking forward to the event, thinking that every child would be given some acknowledgment for his/her special skills and talents.

As it turned out the first grade teacher began the program by explaining that in every classroom there are those few children who stand out from the rest—those who are destined to be the presidents and the CEOs, the leaders—those who will accomplish great things, those who will do something worthwhile, those who will make some kind of difference in the world. He then proceeded to honor four students in his first grade class who apparently fit that description.

It still brings tears when I think of how the rest of the children and their parents must have felt. I guess this teacher thought it was possible, and perfectly acceptable, for him to make the decision as to the future success and leadership abilities of these 6 and 7 year-olds. And, yet, this is when the seeds of success versus failure first get planted – very early in a child’s school career. Some students are labeled smart, capable, competent, motivated, will go far…and others are labeled slow, lazy, unmotivated, disruptive, learning disabled, ADD, or just average.

What would the awards ceremony be like if every child received acknowledgment for his/her unique gifts? No one would be left out!


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