Thursday, January 27, 2011

All You Have to Do is Show Up - A Tale of Perfect Attendance

Today the debate turned to perfect attendance rewards, something that seems innocent enough on the surface, but can elicit debate in even the most timid teachers. I was lucky to engage in a great dialogue with a trusted colleague but also turned to educators around the world to get their input. The judgment was swift and to the point, most were vehemently opposing them, lambasting them for what they thought they really were; bandaid awards to those students who may not otherwise receive an award.

So why is rewarding students for perfect attendance not a great concept? The ideas were many:

  • It is one more way for schools to separate the winners from the losers in a public forum.
  • It rewards students just for shwoing up, not effort, work ethic or learning. What life skill does that teach since there are no jobs that reward you merely for showing up.
  • Perfect attendance award does nothing but encourage students to come to school even when they are sick enough to stay home or contagious.
  • It makes losers out of the kids where life situations prevent them from coming to school; funerals, court, counselor appointments etc.
  • We are rewarding kids based on their parents behavior; whether they can get them to school or not. Why disappoint the kids further that already are battling with parents that may not be able to supply reliable transportation.
  • If this is the only thing we can rewards students for then we are not spending enough time recognizing or uncovering their talents.
  • And finally, my own opinion; if we have to reward students to come to school then what value are we placing on schools? School is meant to be a place of stimulation, of excitement, of amazing discoveries. Not a place where you show up just so you get a reward. Not a place that has to have a reward tied to it as theperetual carrot. While I agree that we should celebrate those students that do show up day in and day out, I just don't think that an award eceremony is the right venue for it.

Add your voice to the debate! Is a perfect attendance award ceremony simply a cute certificate that does no harm, is it no big deal, or is it another way to compartmentalize students?


Justin said...

Wowee! What do I even say to this? I definitely think they are pointless at best and destructive at worst. The ideas here sum it up well, especially yours.

I wholeheartedly concur.

- @newfirewithin

Lauren said...

We have done away with ANY and ALL rewards completely and totally at my school, which is sad is some respects, but fine in others. The students at my school receive no reward or recognition except for a diploma when they graduate. I agree too that "perfect attendance" is not something to be rewarded...although I remember receiving that award at my tiny catholic grade school that I is pointless.

David said...

I'm going to go with "compartmentalize kids." Awards of all time are destructive in some way.

I'm very anti-competition. Can you tell? :)

Sarah said...

What a timely post.
I was just at school today and we were discussing rewarding children at lunch who were playing nicely together to try and overcome the issues of children not playing nicely together. Just before everybody gets angry about this, there was a bigger emphasis on addressing the issues of why children weren't playing nicely together and how we could help these children overcome these barriers. Anyway, I went out on a limb and suggested that rewards wouldn't help the situation because it would be congratulating the kids who were great at that sort of thing anyway and the reason that the other kids weren't doing it isn't necessarily that they didn't want to there was just some barrier to them being able to and by rewarding those that are would just drive a bigger wedge (as you and other people have pointed out in their comments) between those who can/do and those who can't/don't. It was an interesting conversation.

Going back to your post, I think my biggest concern about rewarding attendance would also be your point about the fact that often it's not the kids fault that they can't get to school on time/at all and it must be incredibly depressing to watch other people receive recognition for something that you'd probably quite like to do but because of your circumstances aren't always able to do.

Thanks for the post.

Crumble said...

I've never heard of such an award and I don't think any school here in NZ has that. It does seem pointless and agree with all the points made in the post

Mrs Ripp aka 4thGrdTeach said...

Thank you all for your comments and for even participating in this post. The debate is an interesting one since this one in essence rewards kids for showing up to school, which a good thing, but there shouldn't be a need for reward since showing up is a requirement.

Pippin14 said...

While I'm not a teacher (still in the education system), I would say that attendance awards are at best, a waste, and at worst, kind of humiliating. It's like saying "Excellent job!" to a kid for doing something as basic as getting up in the morning- you're supposed to unless you you have a legitimate reason like being really sick, in which not being told "Excellent job" is implying that being sick is their fault. Plus, it really stinks to sit in an assembly and see random people get perfect attendance awards, some of whom deserve it and others, don't (I've been through a few of those). Plus, to add injury to insult (which may be far worse than the other way around), it's a great waste of paper- couldn't the awarding be used for something that's simple but meaningful, like awards that compliment a kid's natural/hard-earned talents such as being nice or having great singing skills?

Ashley said...

This post hits home as a teacher & parent. My daughter is in first grade & her school has a quarterly awards ceremony. I explained to her last year she would probably never get a perfect attendance award as she has asthma which causes her to miss a few days in the winter months.

Last week was the awards "show". She was seen in the office because her belly hurt, she gets extremely nervous about everything! Her class went at the end of the day & she didn't get any award. She was so upset because she felt this meant she was not doing a good job in 1st grade. She is reading on a 2nd grade level, nice to all students, does a great job in Math, but struggles with Writing. A typical "good" student.

As a teacher, I hate our awards ceremony. First of all, we have Effort Awards, All A's, & a Super Award, given to the student who embodies all the qualities of a "good" student. So I have to decide "who gets these awards?"

So as I ramble, yes, I agree with everything posted. As a teacher, why can't I recognize student strengths in a non-traditional way? As a parent, I hate seeing my daughter feel like a failure because she wasn't given a piece of paper.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the initial posts. Maybe if a school is determind to give awards it should be in the form of a special event or activity for model students who show good charater, judgement and effort, something all students good attain regardless of parents, illness, or life circumstances. Just a 1st thought. Lil


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