A Celebration of Learning

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One of the schools I work at recently decided to try a new way of recognising student achievement. We are having an ongoing discussion about how to recognise achievement, when that might happen during the school year, and what that might look like as we move forward in the school year. While the discussion was initiated by me, the teaching staff are definitely willing to give something new a try. I think we all agree that Honour Roll assemblies and medals for Principal’s List, while motivating for some students and celebrated by parents, are not recognising the bulk of the students at our school.

Through my blog reading and following Twitter, I am aware of many discussions about this topic, and decided I would do my best to bring this to our staff team. I am also hoping that the discussions amongst staff will spread to other stakeholders in our community: students, families and extended community members.

Our first step this year was to have a Celebration of Learning assembly. Each teacher agreed to choose one month in the school year to bring something that students are learning to our monthly assemblies. The intent is that students, whether it is two partners or an entire class, will share something with the school. I made sure to let staff know that the parameters are wide open, as long as it is tied to something the students are learning in class. I was both please and surprised by the results of the first assembly.

Our oldest students were the first to present at the October assembly. Students came forward to recite poems on a Halloween theme, many of them by Edgar Allen Poe. I was pleased by the courage many students showed, reading or reciting aloud in front of their peers, parents, grandparents and a school trustee. One thought I had afterwards was that while everyone had a chance to present, the length of time it took to for all students to share their poem definitely watered down the power of the moment. Another surprise for me was the video their teacher chose to show as a wrap-up — a short animated clip that I did not have the opportunity to preview (note to self: preview all presentations in the future!). Many students enjoyed the clip, but the content was not appropriate for all ages, in my opinion.

A happy surprise was that another teacher made a last minute decision to put a video together of a project her class had just finished. Candid interviews on the topic of bullying, along with the “why’s” and “how’s” of dealing with the issue were spliced together. The culmination of the short presentation was a song, sung by the entire class, decked out in pink shirts. I did have the opportunity to preview this film, and it was a wonderful wrap-up to our first Celebration of Learning.

While our journey is just beginning, I feel like we have taken an important first step. I was able to share the rationale for beginning this process with some parents. Some of our teachers were able to see an excellent example by a passionate teacher of just the sort of initiative I was hoping for. I feel like it primed the pump for future conversations during the rest of the school year.

10 Comments

  1. Chris Wejr said:

    Hey Dan – love this direction. As you know, we are looking to move away from our current format in which we honour each child for who they are. We are content with it but I know that public recognition is not the most “intrinsic” thing we can do; think the movement your school is making puts the focus more on learning. I look forward to hearing more!

    October 29, 2012
    Reply
  2. Dan Watt said:

    Thanks Chris. The feedback from parents was “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. It would be moving pretty fast at this point to get rid of academic recognition as we”ve known it altogether. I’m hoping to move slowly in the direction of Identity Days, more celebrations of learning that are explicitly tied to Learning Outcomes, and wide ranging dialogue with teachers and parents. I think the big thing now is public relations and building trust.

    October 29, 2012
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  3. wilkinsb@aaps.k12.mi.us said:

    I am so glad that you had this program. My children used to attend Waldordf School. The school would have programs like this several times during the school year. Everyone came away from the programs with a good feeling about school and learning. We could all see the students’ progress as they shared what they learned in these programs.

    October 29, 2012
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    • Dan Watt said:

      Thanks for your encouragment. Just to be clear, we are figuring this out as we go, and not following a specific program. I sure look forward to hearing what others have to say about sharing student progress and will continue to share our learning her.

      October 29, 2012
      Reply
  4. wilkinsb@aaps.k12.mi.us said:

    I am so glad that you had this program. My children used to attend a Waldorf School. The school would have programs like this several times during the school year. Everyone came away from the programs with a good feeling about school and learning. We could all see the students’ progress as they shared what they learned in these programs.

    October 29, 2012
    Reply
  5. Keisha said:

    It’s a fantastic idea that you have generated. I would love to see our school district implement something of the sort and will share during upcomingPrincipal’s meeting. I am an instructional coach and find that walking through hallways and dropping into classrooms isn’t enough to get the entire picture of what our children are learning. I know that some progressive leaders of our district will bite at the idea to share student learning besides a data driven graded progress report. I am interested in more information about “Identity Days”. But thanks for sharing this.

    October 30, 2012
    Reply
  6. Kyle said:

    This is a great idea. I’ve been thinking about how to recognize the achievements of those who usually aren’t on the honor roll or who’s attention is gained usually by misbehaving. I think recognizing there growth, as small as it may be is something that needs to be noticed instead of the bad behavior. You mention that the length of time watered down the power of the moment. What are your thoughts on keeping it short and sweet? Also, how often do you plan on holding these celebration of learning assemblies? Thanks for your thoughts.

    October 30, 2012
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  7. Anne Crookston said:

    Hello folks,
    I am so very late to this discussion – mainly because a celebration of success has only recently become part of my remit. I love these ideas and would love to know how they have developed,
    Annie

    March 24, 2014
    Reply

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