Something small for today as I work up to my bigger post on the teacher hiring/ firing dilemma…
I’m scrolling through the education news page on Nola.com when I come across the following headline: “Destrehan school rolls out the red carpet for Student Appreciation Week.” Upon clicking on the full story tag, I am redirected to a page with two photographs, one of a fifth grade boy flexing his arms next to an inflated Oscar statue as he struts down a red carpet and the other of children striking movie star poses as they too make their way into the school on the same red carpet.
The Oscar-themed party, where students were movie stars and teachers were members of the paparazzi, was organized by Ethel Schoeffner Elementary School as part of their “And the Winner is…” celebration of Student Appreciation Week. And while it may seem trivial, a simple activity a school might plan to encourage children to like school, it occurs to me that such an event is probably more important than we realize.
Thinking back to my school days, I can remember many occasions when teachers and administrators collaborated to put on celebrations for us students. There were parties around holidays, parties after standardized tests, and sometimes parties after we finished chapters in social studies class. While we may not have been fully aware as to why these parties were happening, we did understand that they were a reward for our hard work. We had accomplished something big, had tried our best to learn our lessons, and our teachers knew that and thus threw us a party. And of course, at these events, we all wanted our pictures taken.
So often when we think of student support services, our minds go to purely practical things (i.e. more tutoring programs, more instructional technology, and more guidance counselors.) These things are certainly necessary and important. However, the support services that comprise a quality education might also include things that affirm student achievement and incentivize student learning.
Consider the following: Students at poor performing schools are frequently told that they are not learning enough. Both students and parents receive reminders that students are performing unsatisfactorily or below average. In this context, resources are directed to decreasing play time and increasing class time. Rarely do students receive considerable recognition or appreciation for their academic successes, big or small. Now, students undoubtedly need resources like counselors to help them in regards to their emotional development. But it doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out that students might do better in school if time was taken to recognize the efforts they do put forth.
I’m not saying that students should be thrown a party for every gold star they receive. What I am suggesting is that just as it is important to invest in traditional student support services, it is also important that schools find time to support student learning by showing students that they acknowledge and appreciate their efforts. Things like parties, while they appear to be “just for fun” activities, actually double as a type of student support that neither tutoring nor more computers can provide, showing students that their hard work is acknowledged by their schools. Such positive feedback and encouragement cannot be underestimated. Perhaps if I had felt like celebrity every time I left tutoring, I might have done better in calculus.
As always, it’s just a thought.