Thursday, July 5, 2018

Recognizing Achievement

"How is your school recognizing and celebrating students? Are you encouraging effort and growth over achievement and outcomes?"

My special education students are used to not being recognized for awards. They have grown up with many failures and disappointments so going to an awards ceremony is almost a humiliation for them. Many see it as just more evidence to make them feel “dumb” or “useless.” It breaks my heart when I see their discouragement shown in their faces and body language.

So, one Saturday in the last month of school, I usually have my own special ceremony at my house. I have done this for years and most of the students look forward to it. All of my students are invited along with their parents as well as former students and their parents.  Siblings are not invited because I want the parents to give their undivided attention to my student. Each year, I teach the students some new yard game to play in my big backyard. The most loved game was croquet. We fix a simple lunch for everyone which are hotdogs, chips, and cookies. After lunch, we have an awards ceremony where every student receives a certificate of accomplishment and a gift from me. When each student comes up to receive them, they are allowed to speak and share a favorite memory of their year. I make sure that each student shines and knows that they truly earned this certificate. I don’t go into specifics but may mention things like Most Improved in Reading or Math or another subject area. One may have to do with Social Skills such as the Most Sensitive and Caring Classmate or Most Helpful to Others. I see other students nodding while giving applause because they know the award is deserved.

Many of my students like talking to my former students. This helps them see that Special Education has not ended their future. Most of my former students are working full time jobs and are successful in life. Likewise, many of the parents like talking about the future also.

Every year I marvel at how successful this event is. I’m glad that many students and parents find support from others in our small community. I love to see the joy in the faces of my students and their parents. By doing this, I feel like I’m investing in the future of my students.

What do you do to recognize your student’s achievements? Please share.

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

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