Over the past 6 months I have read numerous tweets and blog posts from other principals and teachers regarding doing away with Honor Roll and school assemblies recognizing students for Honor Roll. I appreciated how this discussion challenged my thinking, but I never joined in the discussion, because I am the one that started the Honor Roll assembly at our school and decided it is time for me to explain why our school started this.
During my first year as principal in my current school I quickly learned that there was a common culture amongst students in our district that learning is “not cool”. We are a unique school made up of students from surrounding small, rural communities and even though we have separate elementary, middle and high schools we are all in one large building. I heard many stories from teachers in upper grades describing examples in class in which students were embarrassed about the high grades they received. I heard about a school assembly recognizing older students for their achievements that didn’t go well, because many students were laughing and teasing each other. The saddest story to me was of a senior receiving a National Merit Scholarship but she didn’t want to be recognized publicly for it out of fear of peers finding out. When I heard this, I knew that we had to do something at the elementary level to change this culture in our building.
Our 4th/5th grade teachers had already begun the tradition years ago of recognizing students that made Honor Roll status of either having all A’s, A’s/B’s or all B’s on their report cards. Students names were written on Trojan Head cut-outs (our school mascot is the trojan) and displayed on the hallway. There were a few years that parents donated money for these students to receive special t-shirts at the end of the year.
At the beginning of my 2nd year as principal, I met with a committee of teachers to build on this current practice started by our 4/5th grade teachers. We decided to have quarterly Pride assemblies to recognize our students for their academic achievements and invite parents to these assemblies as well. We added 3rd graders to the list of students to be recognized for Honor Roll since they also received letter grades on their report cards. In addition, we allowed every teacher in the school (including special area teachers) to nominate one student to be recognized for being “On a Roll.” This could be a student in any grade working hard to improve in any area.
This is now our 3rd year of having a quarterly pride assembly. Yesterday was our 1st Pride assembly for the year and here’s how it went:
*I thanked parents for coming to show their support for their children. I then talked about how hard all of our students are working in every grade to become great readers/writers during Daily 5 time and had student participation to tell what Stamina is, why they need to read so much and how it helps them become great learners.
*I reviewed Pride Assembly behavior:
Used student volunteers to demonstrate the “wrong” way to receive an award (they exaggerated bragging to others, saying “haha you didn’t get one”, etc) and then students to demonstrate the “right” way to receive an award.
Also talked about what students should do if they don’t receive an award (give a thumbs up or congratulate their peers; not pout)
*Presented certificates/pencils to the students for “On a Roll” reading the reason for each recognition (ex: “Johnny is On a Roll for working hard at building his stamina during Daily 5 and increasing his reading level.” and “Suzie has been practicing her math facts and keeps moving up in Rocket Math”).
*Presented certificates/pencils to students for:
3rd grade A/B’s
3rd grade A’s
4th grade A/B’s
4th grade A’s
5th grade A/B’s
5th grade A’s
*I closed the assembly by thanking our students for their outstanding behavior during the assembly and read to them 2 quotes from our guest teachers about why they love to be called to be guest teachers in our school, because our students are always so well behaved.
Each time we have this assembly I am amazed by our students’ behavior of congratulating each other and being proud of their accomplishments. Our parent feedback has always been thankful for recognizing their children and that they are invited to attend these assemblies.
Despite this, I know that this practice may change in the future. Through implementing Daily5/Cafe and focusing on conferring with each student on their current level and their goals to focus on, we are building intrinsic motivation in all of our students. Even in the upper grades we are seeing students continue to love learning and enjoy sharing with each other what they have recently read or learned about during reflection time. We are beginning discussions on changing our grading process and I’ve even heard of some schools eliminating grades. I have no idea where this will take us, but for now, we continue to recognize students for honor roll.