As we approach May, and now that I have 2 daughters, it is time to continue a long standing Wejr Family tradition – the “Weejies” – The Wejr Family Awards.
Growing up, I was an A student and a decent athlete so I always looked forward to the day when my parents invited my family over to watch me beat out my sister for the academic and athletic awards. I really think this helped me to become successful in the “competitive real world” and losing these awards motivated my sister to try harder. She was brilliant in areas such as care, friendship, and family but always needed a little boost in her quest for the important real world things like grades and trophies. Although we were two years apart and developed at different rates, I believe that it was important for her to learn how to lose and see that there are people better than her and that she needed to work harder in areas that were important, not to her, but to my parents.
So now, my wife and I have decided to continue on this journey. Our first Wejr Family Awards have been discussed. We have one daughter that was born 3 lbs heavier than the other (they are twins). She has developed a few weeks ahead so is going to clean up this year! We are so proud and excited for her. Our other daughter will be motivated by these awards (that have nothing to do with development, of course) and will try harder to maybe be the first to walk or even talk! (I look forward to grading them in their journey to walk and ride a bike – its important that they know where they are at and what better way of showing them this than a letter grade?). The key here is that by encouraging our children to strive for these awards, and defeat the other, they will achieve more and be pushed toward a more successful career in the real world. I know that without these awards, given once a year at the end of the school year, my girls will struggle to see the value in learning and helping others. That is why I am so excited to continue the tradition of… “The Weejies”.
Obviously we would NEVER do this to our kids… so the question is: WHY DO WE DO THIS IN SCHOOLS?
NOTE: I want to thank my parents for always encouraging and seeing the strengths and interests in their children. My sister and I had completely different strengths and because of my parents, my sister continues to be my best friend and teach me so many things in areas in which she excels: compassion, care,and family.
A few more thoughts from me on awards:
Whoa… the beginning of that article was very frustrating to read! Thanks goodness, I read it all. You were/are two different people… and both of you have become very successful in different paths of life. You went through school with completely different priorities, graduated, and both became wonderful adults, and now parents. That so-called “award” at the beginning was a shocker… would never have happened. Put a big circle and slash through it. 🙂 It was a good way to get my attention! Well done! 🙂
Great post Chris. A poignant example to demonstrate an important point – sometimes humour is a great way to deliver a message. Nice save with your mom…I think you might be a little scared of her :-).
Yup, you got to start ’em up early on that track to success and “real world” competition…hahahaha
Good way to make a case for what NOT to do!
I will bet you had such fun writing this one! 🙂
Great post, Chris! Great point that parents would never do this to their own kids so why do we give awards at school. I saw a poster at the rink today about refs. It said something like this, “remember, the ref is someone’s kid.” The poster hopes that we would treat the ref with respect because they are somebody’s child. Why not make the leap and treat all students with respect and change the way we do awards? Indeed!
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
When you put it this way, it makes as much sense to do this with your own kids as it does to do it with other people’s kids.
Awards ceremonies and honor rolls are a tradition that simply does not warrant the time and effort they require to continue.
Thanks for sharing this
I was looking at the award thinking why don’t I remember this!!! Good thing I continued reading !!! Thanks for the comments – love you!!
I really enjoyed the subtle humour in this. And you illustrate so clearly the absurdity of suggesting that we grade kids for their own good.
You really had me going for the first paragraph! I was thankful that I kept reading and didn’t let the anger that you “sold out” creep in and stop me from reading the rest of the post.
Great work drawing the analogy with your own kids and their awards. Te post demonstrates how silly award ceremonies have become. Quite frankly, the kids already know who is getting the awards and could MC the ceremony.
Thank you for posting this and helping me realize that my time is better spent recognizing all rather than carrying on the crazy tradition of handing out certificates to the select few.
Creative, provocative and inspiring. The concluding remarks relieved my frustration and angst! Well done.
Oh man, am I glad I kept reading! I kept thinking: wow, our conversation today is going to be interesting 😉
The scary thing is that there are some people that actually think that way. I have had conversations with some people who actually don’t have a problem with your “tongue in cheek” rationale. What surprises me is that you actually had some people that read your blog regularly going! Enjoy your kids for all they are and are not.
I am trilled to have found your website Chris. I am a teacher in an elementary school that still gives out trophies to the “deserving” half of the grad class . It breaks my heart every year to see the look on the faces of the students who are not considered “worthy” to receive an award. This year I have started a discussion with my staff to find a way to end the year with a celebration of each child (no trophies) and I am hoping to win them over. After that the PTA….
Thank you for all you have shared on this site. Your staff and students are lucky to have you as a principal!
Thanks so much Liz – we have a community that believes in this and it works for us. If you ever have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
First – you’re Canadian, so that means you’re super cool! We are a hockey family and love Canadians (we’re from the Puget Sound but live in Japan now on a US Navy base).
Second – great series of articles on awards and recognition ceremonies. I actually had an illness-induced (I have a very bad summer cold!) Socratic argument with myself today on this very topic. I had similar findings, that the students perennially sitting, not traipsing up to pose for a picture, must feel so disengaged and hopeless. What in the world are we doing? I have two sons, one makes the honor roll all the time (and yes, i feel a surge of pride when he does), but the other has only made honor roll once. His middle school didn’t do honor roll assemblies, so ironically, yet consistent with my Socratic argument, he didn’t get his walk of pride that year. One of the groups we spend very little time considering is the exceptionally bright under-achiever, the student who declines to practice things he or she has already mastered. The failure to turn in homework results in low grades, jeopardizing honors, GPAs, and college entry. But the low grades don’t reflect knowledge or even mastery – they reflect compliance (or the lack thereof) with a series of work orders. They may better reflect the degree to which the educational system engaged the student in the learning process. Those Bs and Cs…they’re not reflective of mastery, they reflect the system’s failure, not the student’s. Some students don’t do the work because the opportunity cost is too high. Practicing material detracts from the time they’d rather spend in other pursuits where learning IS required, where practice IS necessary.
Award ceremonies leave too many students out in the cold. Strength-based education as you describe, which leverages a personal relationship with the student to draw him or her into the learning process, has the potential to motivate by finding the things of intrinsic value. We want students to be lifelong learners. Let’s start by engaging with them, then maybe they’ll engage a bit more with the work put before them. And if not, maybe we need to have the courage to rethink what work we are setting before them. Maybe it’s not the right intellectual nutrition.
Thank you for your insightful posts, and your exceptionally warm spirit. I am sure you make a difference every day!
Thanks, Allison! We are clearly on the same page but thank you for adding an additional layer to the dialogue. I have since moved to another school who also got rid of awards years ago and it makes for such a positive year-end for all kids.
A hockey family now living in Japan… love it!
I live just north of Puget Sound only a few miles from the border (my school is too).
Enjoy your time in Japan and thanks for adding to the discussion.