We had our awards assembly on the afternoon of the last day of school. Considering the fact that we have an attendance problem at our school, this was probably not the best idea. Many of our students just chose not to show up for school on the last day of school. Others chose to skip out right before the assembly began.
For Algebra 1, I gave two awards. I gave one award to the student with the highest Algebra 1 average. This student was very deserving. But, it was also her second time to take Algebra 1. Last year, she did not pass the end of instruction exam at the end of the year. So, she was required to retake Algebra 1 concurrently with Geometry.
I also wanted to reward a high-achieving student who was taking Algebra 1 for the very first time. The student with the highest average in this category was also very deserving. She worked extremely hard all year. In the past, she had not done well in math. She doesn't like school, and she is very vocal about it. But, this year, she made an exception for Algebra I. She kept the perfect notebook. She did every single homework assignment. She asked questions when she didn't understand things.
She challenged me as a teacher this year, and I'm thankful for that. Every time I tried to play review games with her class, it would fail miserably. You would think I would learn, but I didn't. And, every time this student would get frustrated with the review game, she would announce, "Ms. Hagan, I don't think I'm learning a single thing." As painful as that is to hear sometimes, it's something I need to hear as a teacher. I wish I had a bunch more students who were willing to speak up when my presentation approach does not meet their needs.
Next year, I want to give my students more opportunities to vocalize whether or not something is helping them to learn. Because, that's what it's all about. It doesn't matter how fun an activity is if it isn't helping my students to learn.
Anyway, back to the awards assembly. I walked up to the podium to announce who will be receiving my top student awards. I gave the award to the top Math Analysis student and the award to the top Algebra 2 student. I announced my first Algebra 1 winner, and no one rises from their seat. I announce my second Algebra 1 winner, and no one rises from their seat. I find this hard to believe because I had asked this student if she would be there just hours earlier. I had done everything but tell her that she was going to be receiving one of my awards.
After the assembly is over, I look up and am surprised to see my missing student approaching me. She has a question to ask me. "Can I still have my award? I was too scared to go up there and get it." I'm not sure if this student has ever won an award before. I proudly presented her with her medal, and I shook her hand. It breaks my heart to think about what must have been going through her mind as she sat there in the auditorium.
Next year, I want to do a better job. I want to do a better job of recognizing students. I shouldn't wait until the last day of the school year to congratulate them on a job well done. I'm not sure what this will look like yet, but I'm thinking about it.
In the mean time, I'd love to hear about how you recognize students in your own classroom!