Last week I attended the second semester and year-end awards ceremony at my son's middle school. I found it an emotional experience and cried through the grade 7 slide show. My son is not in grade 7 but it was a good chance to cry as the gym was dark at that time. I appreciate the inclusion of slide shows at these events. Sometimes I even enjoy the slides.
As a proud mother, I have to declare my excitement that my son won some awards. I'm not sure, however, that I agree with the concept of the awards ceremony. It is wonderful for the students who win awards to be honoured and I applaud the teachers and administration for awarding prizes in a wide variety of categories. Still, there are students who sit through the whole ceremony (with awards, slide shows and speeches from administration it took an hour and a half) and receive nothing. I wonder how those students feel and I wonder what effect such a ceremony has on their future academic efforts. That there are a variety of awards given out might make things worse for them. And for any students who sat until the end hoping that they would get some form of recognition, the end of the ceremony may be a time of sadness and disappointment.
Recognizing the concern, school administrators point out that the students who didn't receive awards can set goals for the next time. Yes, they can and maybe these ceremonies and those words help some students to push themselves and excel. I doubt that is the case for everyone though. After no recognition at a few of these ceremonies, it must be challenging to find the inner resolve and self confidence to get motivated for the future. At a certain point, students may start to feel that they will never be among the award recipients; those students are different from them. I hope that at this point they do not either give up on doing their own best work, decide to get attention in more troubling ways or start bullying students who receive awards.
My thoughts on this subject are based in a lot of uncertainty. I don't remember attending academic award ceremonies when in school. I attended an athletic awards ceremony once, as a guest, and even there my lack of acclaim left me feeling diminished. I didn't feel motivated to set athletic goals. I did have strengths in other areas. Maybe if there had been recognition offered in those areas, I would have felt better.
Every student, every person has unique strengths. I realize that schools cannot present awards based on each strength for each student. I think it is up to schools, though, to help students learn about the areas in which they are especially strong. I wish that my high school had helped me more in this area. Knowing their unique gifts, students could feel good about themselves and know the directions in life they might want to go. They could then sit at awards ceremonies confident in who they are regardless if there's an award that recognizes their specific talents.
Congratulations to every student at that ceremony and in every school. Please keep trying to be your best. That's all we can ask of anyone. You all have so much talent to share.