When students walk into my class on Friday they’re greeted by a fast paced revolving slide show of my outstanding students for the week. It happens between passing periods and only on Fridays. I decided last school year to start recognizing students more often. They deserve more attention than they get. All of them.
I choose one student, sometimes two, who have shown me something I find notable. It might be one discrete event that punctures the day with the preterite tense or a continuous build up that might elicit integrals and the imperfect. Obvious ways to get chosen are the typical ways one might expect to earn accolades: showing significant improvement over time, evidencing academic consistency, earning perfect marks on a concept quiz, articulating insightful comments in class, showing work that makes me write “lovely.” But there are other not-so-obvious ways too. For example: being vulnerable enough to ask for help, being part of the school’s extracurricular offerings, offering to clean desks, volunteering to help someone on crutches get to their next class, standing up for the defenseless, showing the initiative to create something (a club, a blog, a personal habit) that aligns with their passion. If I notice it, it’s on my watch list.
Students talk about this slideshow, wonder who’ll be next, ask to get a copy of their slide (which I provide), inquire about others, see how I write, see how I create, see how I extol a student who may not be popular to others, witness my commitment to making it happen every Friday, and know that what they do matters. Many times I’ve had a winner tell me after class that I made her day. Now we both feel good.
Most weeks deciding who to choose is easy. When it’s not, that’s good. It makes me look deeper and plumb the depths of my own awareness for perhaps what I’m not seeing. Every one of my students is someone’s child. What would his parents find? Why am I not seeing something worth an extra look? What can I do to find that something? What kind of questions can I ask of the student to learn more about him? If our relationship is lacking communication, what can I do to foster that? Does she dislike math? Does he dislike me? All questions worthy of my own reflection. Making myself do this every week forces a time of reflection.
I have roughly thirty-six Fridays to honor students. With creative planning to sprinkle the all-stars with the developing all-stars, I can honor an entire class of forty throughout the year in a way that I strive to keep not phony.
I keep the music the same. This year it’s “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds. Last year it was “If I Had a Million Dollars” by Bare Naked Ladies. Students come running to me all the time with stories of where they were when they heard the music outside of school and think of our class. Let me repeat that, paraphrased: I’m doing something that makes students have a positive connection to school when they’re not at school. That’s time well spent, in fact, usually about 20 minutes a week. Quite honestly it depends on the shots of espresso that morning.
Here are a few cheesy lines I extracted from my slides:
“He’s the lead dog in this class! If this were the Iditarod, you’d wanna put a leash on him!”
“Rolling in Pure 5s! Knows the power of reassessment!”
“Observant contribution to Broken Squares Activity!”
“Scorched the final and rocked the Charles Lindbergh glasses!”
This has become a tradition that looks like it’s here for a while.
If you want to see a poor man’s version of it with names abbreviated and no music, click here.