“Mr.Gilson, you are one of those participation award people aren’t you?” I was asked this the other day while we were talking about assessment in class and the craziness that 13-year-olds are already sweating not getting on the HIGH honors roll. I was a child of the letter grade word. I shot for a B, I was always informed by my teachers I was not a B student that I should be achieving so much more. But the fact of the matter was I was a B student, I made the B team in sports and I was a very dedicated to being “average” student. I did not love working hard because that cut into reading comic books and playing video games. So I do have a hard time understanding the drive so many students seem to have just to have a high grade. It seems less about enjoying the journey and more about just that percent at the end of every few months. I laughed at the idea that I am a “participation” award guy but I do love celebrating the achievements of everyone rather than just those on the “high honors” list.
So without further delay here are some celebrations.
- Soft Start Writing– After the Christmas Break I decided to start looking at a different “soft start” because we were doing book clubs and that reading time would be replacing individual book silent reading for a bit. I decided that my students needed an easy way to start reflecting on “beautiful words”, beginning with quotes from Together is Better we started this reflective journey. It has been interesting trying to help the students gain greater comfort with sharing their ideas and thoughts. Today I tried some advice from Laura Robb (another great educator introduced to me through my friend Mary Howard) students sharing together in smaller groups before sharing with the class made some of the more reluctant students comfortable to share their ideas regarding today’s quote. This is a work in progress but I celebrate this new addition to my classroom because it gives my students a chance to show their brilliance in a different way.
- The Return of Journals– I celebrate reading journals because I love them. I have talked about them before and how students really did not like them this year. My heartbreak over it and my decision to let them go. Now cut to our book clubs and the idea of having to discuss their reading each week, to reflect and share in small groups. A logistical problem arose for many, “how do I keep track of a weeks ideas?” A simple suggestion of revisiting the journals, not for marks, not for judgment just as the tool to help that I always intended brought me these.
We rarely celebrate as much as we should. We are busy, we have things to accomplish, timetables to meet, arguments about AR to have with those who refuse to listen and so much more. All worth it and all important but we should never forget that celebrating is important too. It isn’t about a participation award or ribbon, it is about taking a moment to acknowledge personal achievement. We need to make time for that.