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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Awards Night Reflections

Last night I attended the last of my three sons' high school Awards Nights. I was struck on how that event has evolved over time.

Nine years ago, my first son was a dedicated scholar--he worked every day until late hours in the night on his studies, achieved good grades, and learned a lot. He was similarly involved in a number of school activities and was (and still is) an all around good kid. At his senior year awards night, he received no awards and we weren't invited to the event. Since he was my first son, I didn't know what to expect and didn't think too much about it. Later when I saw the Awards Night brochure, I was disappointed that a child who worked so hard didn't receive an award, but I also recognized that though he was a strong student, he wasn't the top student in any of his subjects, and I was also grateful that his scholarship had been rewarded with admission to a great university and countless opportunities related to that.

Four years later, my next son did receive a small award at the Awards Night ceremony, a ceremony that was held in the school's field house. It was a fairly simple ceremony with a number of awards, but not that many. We were grateful for my son's award, an award he earned by having good attendance for four years of high school. We were impressed with the many other awards students received that night especially awards related to exceptional scholarship and contribution. I was also happy to see so many of my former students receive awards. My second son, like my first, also had the award of being admitted to a great college that was a super fit for his learning interests and style as well as other acknowledgements related to his interests throughout the year that served to encourage him and lead him forward.

Then last night, I attended the Awards Night again. This time the event seemed to be transformed as it was held in the relatively new high school's theater and included beautiful music, a stage full of graduates, flowers, and awards, and an auditorium filled with family members, community members, some faculty and students too. There was a greater feeling of scholarship and celebration at this Awards Ceremony and there were far more students receiving awards this time than in times past. The awards also represented a greater scope of what it means today be a successful student and person with awards related to the arts, service, scholarship, and leadership--I really liked what seemed to be a more holistic awards ceremony that gave greater acknowledgement to a more comprehensive array of characteristics and accomplishments related to what it means to be successful. This was a positive experience.

As I looked out at the students, I was inspired by so many wonderful awards. I also found myself a bit sensitive to those that received no awards as I had experienced that with my eldest son--a son who had been a good student throughout high school, yet one that didn't fall into any award category. I wondered how we continually coach students forward in ways that recognize their significant, individual contributions while still honoring those that excel in specific areas of school life. I suppose this is a perennial question in any learning sphere. In our school community there are many ways that students are regularly recognized and awarded, and I am thinking about how we do that at our grade level too. How can we work to inspire the best of each and every child at fifth grade?

I was grateful last night to the contribution of so many teachers, community members, and administrators that led to such a wonderful Awards Ceremony. Their scholarship and contribution shined. I was also happy to see what seemed to me to be a transformation of what was a more narrow ceremony in the past to a much more holistic and inclusive ceremony at present. I'm sure that the Awards Ceremony will continue to transform to reflect what it means to be a successful student and to inspire as many students as possible to future pursuits, success, and happiness. I was delighted to be apart of this event and grateful to the tremendous time and effort it took to foster such an event.