Ending well? – part two

One of the joys of writing a blog is to read the responses that people take the time to write. I was really hoping for some response to my post of last time entitled – “Ending well” and was hoping it encouraged some lively discussions in faculty rooms.  One concern I have is that while there are some really thoughtful comments written, I wonder if readers of the blog take the time to go back and consider them as well. Well I hope to correct that in this post on this topic!

I really appreciated Fran VanderMeulen’s comments and her suggestion: “A celebration of talent which we do with year end concerts, art fairs, science fairs and other sharings of the the learning are really much more conducive to the types of cooperation we are trying to encourage in our Christian schools.” If God created us to praise him through learning, how good that we would take the time to celebrate the wonderful gift of learning – of together making meaning from the creation around us and using the minds he has given us!

I also thought Jon Postma’s response to my post on awards ceremonies bore repeating and so I quote it in its entirety:

“Every year I have the privilege of standing in front of the school to present an academic award for my subject area. This is an award given after spending three, roller-coaster years with students during their 6th, 7th, and 8th grade years. I also have had the difficult task of collaboratively deciding on three graduation awards given to 8th grade students–Christian Leadership, Christian Service, and Fruit of the Spirit awards.

When I think about these awards, it is never done in the context of a purely academic perspective. I look for a student who enjoys and engages with the subject area. I look for the foot-washer, one who follows the servant leadership of Jesus and has served their fellow students. I take input from students themselves through yearly spiritual self-assessments and surveys. Lastly I keep my eyes and ears open to the Lord’s leading.

This year my award is going to a student who has a learning disability in my subject area. Even so, the student has engaged, persisted, served, and blessed those around him or her. Earlier this year the student said to a younger student who was struggling in this subject area as he or she studied for a test, “Would you like me to help you study. There are so many things I have learned that could help you.” Will there be some students who are troubled by this decision, thinking they deserved the award for their better grades? Yes, I can imagine some might feel that way, but all the students will recognize the deserving qualities that this student has displayed for all to see.

Last year my award went to “the entire 8th grade class.” There were a lot of talented students in that class. But their greatest accomplishment was being open to God’s leading as He changed them from “my little piranhas” as 6th grade students, constantly picking each other apart, to a class that cared for each other and worked collaboratively with each other in my class. I struggled with the decision to give it to the entire class. There were parts of me that felt it wasn’t right. Were there those that may not have deserved it? Probably. Were there those that thought they alone deserved the award? Probably. I got a few raised eyebrows from my colleagues. But that is the direction that I felt God leading.

Each year as I present the award, I have found myself with tears in my eyes and a voice that trembles and shakes. Not because of what the students have accomplished, not because of the long hours working with and for these students, but because of the awesome privilege of highlighting to the community what it is that God has done in the lives of these students and waiting in eager expectation for what God will do in the years ahead.

Maybe these thoughts will help others as they consider how awards are presented and recipients chosen for awards ceremonies. I still see value in these ceremonies if what is being celebrated comes from these types of attitudes and perspectives.”

Well said, Jon! (and thanks to Fran and Jon for taking the time to write!)

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Filed under classroom, community, distinctively Christian, encouraging the heart, image of God, student outcomes

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