After we poll the students to find out what friends, interests and strengths they want on their poster, the teachers create them and have them printed in colour on nice photo paper. We host a breakfast recognition event in our school gym where every single student walks across the stage to shake hands with their teachers and receive a personalized recognition poster. Parents and family members are invited to attend.
As a middle school, we have three grade levels (6, 7, 8), so have three different designs that ensure the students don't get the same poster from year to year. Here are the three recognition poster designs that we created: (click on them to view larger)
While the old honor's certificate would perhaps precipitate a "good job" or a pat on the back from the parents, there simply wasn't much more interaction created by the certificate. At our old Awards' Ceremonies, I would fine dozens of the traditional Honor's Certificates laying around the gym floor - many simply didn't care about the certificate. Other than their name and a proclamation that they had received honors, there just wasn't enough on the certificate for them to care about.
In contrast, these personalized recognition posters encouraged parents to ask about the content of the poster:
- "Who is this friend?"
- "I didn't know you were friends with them?"
- "Why did you choose that activity to go on your poster?"
- "When did you go to the Columbia Ice Fields?"
- "What was your favorite activity this year?
- "I played basketball in school, too."
- "Looks like you had a lot of fun this year."
Instead of using Awards Night and Honors as a way to artificially entice students to learn, we understand that all students should be recognized unconditionally. Some of the most thankful parents are those who have children who would never be invited to be recognized by their school's honor ceremonies.
Critics of this might suggest that we are de-valuing academics - to this I say that these recognition posters are not about devaluing anything, rather it is about broadening our current narrow vision of what is important. While the old-fashioned Honors certificates are limited to only student achievement, these recognition posters are about a wide range of students' achievements.
Critics will also say that abolishing awards ceremonies will only smother children in a cloak of mediocrity. To this I ask the critics why they devalue something simply because everyone can acheive it? Do we wear dropout rates as a badge of honour? I would hope not. So why do we scoff at schools that celebrate every student?
Recognizing every student is no more an exercise in mediocrity than believing all children should graduate from high school.
Traditional Honor's certificates are more about control through seduction and exclusive elitism while these recognition posters are more about unconditional, inclusive acceptance and recognition for all students.