We have been discussing awards and their purpose in the Woodhaven learning community for the past several months. It’s been a good, eye opening conversation in so many ways.
I’ve heard from parents how they still remember being excluded from an award in their school days and how they have had to have hard conversations with their children if they did not receive an award that they had anticipated receiving.
Then there’s the discussion around student recognition vs awards, and what place each has in our education system today. While we have tried to further develop our student recognition through initiatives such as our “Pack Pride” program, awards still have a place within our learning community and require some conversation.
We know that we have not solved the problem of creating the perfect awards program but we have taken a significant amount of time throughout this year to continue to try to refine and improve awards at Woodhaven Middle School.
The staff at Woodhaven Middle School took in all of the feedback from last year that we received from parents and students. One of the most common concerns brought forward was with respect to students who received an award previously (for example for citizenship) but did not receive it the next year. The question posed was
“How was my child a great citizen last year, but is no longer considered a model citizen this year?”
This, and many other good questions, brought forth much conversation with teachers, parents, administration and students. Through this conversation, we arrived at several conclusions – one of which is that we had not done a good enough job communicating with our students and parents what our intentions were for our awards program prior to the celebration. This blog post is just one way in which we are working to provide further clarification and conversation around our awards.
To further refine and improve our awards program at Woodhaven Middle School for the 2015-16 school year we had significant discussion with many stakeholders. Staff discussed the purpose of awards, the relationship between student recognition and awards, how our current program fit those purposes, what some of the challenges were with our current system and how to proceed.
Probably the most common challenge identified was that awards were becoming less meaningful because staff, students, and some parents felt that just about every student received an award. This was an interesting revelation because after discussing awards with staff, I met with students to gather their feedback. I asked teachers at each grade level to provide me with 2 or 3 students who would be confident enough to contribute to a conversation on awards. I did not exclusively want students who are typically our awards recipients. I was looking for a cross section of students who represented our whole school population… and I certainly got it!
I facilitated a discussion over a pizza lunch with these students to hear what they thought. They had a lot of great ideas and feedback but they also identified that some awards had little or no meaning because they felt that everyone received one. They also said that medals are really important to them… I am glad I asked because I had no idea!
I took the student feedback and went back to staff. We created a small committee to try to rework our current awards structure to reflect parent feedback, the student perspective and our thoughts as well. I then met again with our students to gather more thoughts as we continued to make revisions to the program. During this journey I shared with school council that we were working through this process and information would be coming. Parents provided a few more thoughts during these conversations which we were able to incorporate as well.
We have been back and forth between students and staff several times throughout this process making revisions and gathering feedback. At our previous school council meeting I shared with our parents where we had arrived. After some great conversation I was able to take just a bit more feedback to our awards committee where they made some final changes.
It’s been a long, thorough process, but one that was certainly necessary for our learning community. While we know that as reflective practitioners we are going to need to seek out feedback again after this year and make further revisions, we are pleased that we have been able to gather feedback and use that to guide our discussion and work.
The results of this process are demonstrated with the awards outlined below.
Woodhaven Middle School Awards 2016-17
Students who receive this award have demonstrated a deep understanding of learning across the four academic core subject areas (Math, Science, Social Studies and English Language Arts). They are engaged and dedicated learners who have achieved Exemplary as a cumulative mark in at least 21 of the 26 process skills in these subject areas.
Learn How To Learn
Students receiving the Learn How To Learn award have exceeded the high expectations that their teachers have for them. These students have become engaged in the learning process and have demonstrated extraordinary growth in realizing their full potential for learning in all core subject areas.
Leader of the Pack
Students receiving the Leader of the Pack award have achieved academic success and demonstrated outstanding citizenship. These students have not only met the criteria for either the Academic Excellence award or the Learning How To Learn award but have also been positive role models within our Woodhaven community. These students have demonstrated a willingness to share their leadership qualities in both formal and informal ways, to give of their time through volunteering and to show respect for the property and environment of our school. They have represented Woodhaven, and themselves, with great pride.
Athletic Do Right Award
The Athletic Do Right Awards are presented to students who have represented Woodhaven as an ambassador in inter-school athletics. These students in grades 7-9 have played on a minimum of 3 school teams and in grades 5 and 6 have played on a minimum of 2 school teams. These school teams include cross country, volleyball, basketball, badminton, track (at the County level) soccer and/or competed in the annual golf tournament.
Pam Plourde Award
The Pam Plourde Award recognizes students who serve our school through outstanding citizenship at all times. These students support staff, parents and fellow students throughout the year, in a variety of ways and expect nothing in return. Students receiving the Pam Plourde award are extraordinary, selfless representatives of the Woodhaven learning community. They consistently go above and beyond the high expectations of students at Woodhaven Middle School to give to others and exemplify the expectation to always “Do Right”!
I look forward to seeing many of our parents at our Awards Celebration in June!
Mr. S. Patras
Principal, Woodhaven Middle School