Friday, December 2, 2011

Guest Post: When you REALLY Reflect Upon Awards by Chris Wejr @MrWejr

I recently read an excellent blog post by Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp titled, "Awards for All Means Students Still Lose - No Matter How Well Meaning They Are." I read the comments on the post and the comment that most aligned with my thoughts was made by Chris Wejr's @mrwejr. I asked for and received permission from @mrwejr to share his comment as a guest post. He wanted me to do a little "tinkering" so that it would be a partner post. I have added a little but the bulk of this post is his. Thank you Mr. Wejr.

When you REALLY Reflect Upon Awards by Chris Wejr @MrWejr

Awards are always a hot topic. As you know, Kent Elementary School ended our awards ceremony in 2009. When you REALLY reflect upon awards, it is quite silly what we force our kids to sit through. Most awards ceremonies highlight the achievements of a select few (mostly the same students each year) and force others to sit and watch. Those that watch are NOT recognized for their efforts and this further disengages the watching majority.

When we tell people that we have ended our awards and that we honour each child throughout the year, people assume we give awards to everyone. Since when do we need awards to honour? Speaking publicly about or privately to a child about their strengths is what we do.... without tickets, prizes, medals, or trophies.

As soon as you offer an award, the focus goes directly to that. We get parents and students fighting for this honour chosen by teachers. Furthermore, teachers often argue about who should be chosen for said award.

What are we trying to teach kids? To go for an award? ...or... To see the value of working hard to complete a challenging task? Indeed, student achievement is not the same as student learning.

We do not give awards nor do we have a honour roll or student of the month. Our "marks" are still great for those who previously did well... and we still have those who struggle. We have not seen a significant change in academics since the ending of all of this. BUT - we have seen a HUGE shift in school culture where it is ok to take risks. More academic risk taking will create conditions for more learning.

It is far easier to give an award or many awards than it is to honour a child's strengths and challenge them to be better. So if our "top-achievers" (and students that would have won an award) do just as well AND we have improved culture since we ended awards, why would we have them?

In closing, when we praise students we need to make sure that it is meaningful, relevant, and effort-based (growth mindset). Awards most often put the focus on results (fixed mindset). If everyone gets an award, they may not be as harmful in the losing factor but they lose meaning... so again, why have them at all?

Be a child's coach - praise them for their efforts and challenge and support them in areas of their struggle.

November 22, 2011 9:22 PM


  1. Thanks for this post.
    My school had our first *ever* awards ceremony today (new building leadership). I have struggled these last few weeks, knowing that none of the students in my class would receive an academic achievement award because their "grades" did not make the cut. The students in my class work extremely hard. They are curious, they are excited to learn new things, and they becoming proud of who they are and of the many strengths they bring to the classroom community.

    I felt so deflated as I sat on the floor of the auditorium and K got up from his seat, crawled over to me and whispered in my ear, "Ms. M, is anyone in our class getting one of these awards?"

    @gcouros posted this about awards last year:

  2. One comment stood out on her highlighted the comment here on your blog, gave it a special place...choose it over all the others. What is different about doing what you did and awards? Seems the same but with a different name.

    If after a unit in school one particular product stood out, and the kid that made it was highlighted at the next team meeting, wouldn't that be similar to what you did here?

  3. Paul, Blogging and tweets is about putting a message out there and getting feedback. I am saying the comment by Chris aligned well with my thoughts. There is an important message that I felt needed to be shared. Much different than telling a child they are "the best."

  4. Paul, I would like to thank you for pointing that out. When I read the intro again, what you said did ring true. I changed the wording a little to the intro in order to better express my thoughts. Thanks for helping me be reflective