Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Celebrating Excellence

Do you remember the days of bringing home a good report card to Mom and Dad?  Do you remember when they took it, slapped a souvenir magnet on it and then put it on the refrigerator?  That was great.  Or do you even remember when your Kindergarten teacher gave you a sticker on your work or put a stamp on it?  Wasn't that awesome?  Remember how that made you feel?  Remember the joy of getting that sticker or seeing your grades up on the fridge?  What happened to that?

I teach high school math, a subject nobody would ever imagine seeing a sticker on a test paper.  One would think that giving out stickers in a high school math class is too childish and stickers only belong in the elementary schools.  Why?  What about a sticker makes it not relevant for a high school student?  What message is a sticker sending?

I adopted a new policy this year.  If a student achieves a 95% or above on a test, then the students' test paper gets a sticker on it.  Also I have put up what I call "Fiscina's Fridge."  Its a few pieces of poster board put together and drawn on to resemble a household refrigerator.  When a student gets the 95% or above, then the test gets posted to "Fiscina's Fridge" to recognize the student's achievement and celebrate their excellence on that test.

We celebrate excellence in our culture in many ways.  Athletes receive MVP awards and other similar recognition.   Singers and actors have award shows to celebrate what they have accomplished.  But students achieving excellence seems to be left out of that celebration.  There will be press conferences for the student athlete who decides to commit to a big time college, but nothing for the valedictorian who made his or her choice of schools to attend.  I am not trying to downplay the success of any student athlete and others, but there should be celebration for excellence across the board.  Students who do well in school should be recognized for what they accomplish.  And not just once a year or once in their academic careers, but should be celebrated more often.

What I have noticed with implementing "Fiscina's Fridge" this year is that students are striving to get their test paper up there.  They want their test to be posted for everyone to see and celebrate their accomplishment.  Also what I have noticed is that the students who are receiving A's are more excited about their grades.  Students used to get their test back with an A on it and be content.  But now, students are practically jumping for joy when they see their name up on the fridge.

It has been an exciting year so far with "Fiscina's Fridge" and I hope it continues to make students strive to be better and celebrate those who excel.  Recognition for accomplishing something goes a long way.  And celebrating the students has an impact that you can not believe.