Honouring ALL Students – The Movement

A few years ago the staff at Kent Elementary made a decision that changed the way students are recognized at our school.  Instead of awards ceremonies, student of the month assemblies, and honour rolls, we decided to honour and recognize each student in our school for their strengths, talents, and interests (inside and outside of school).  The true impact that this has had on our kids is difficult to be written in words, although I have attempted to tell the story in a blog post.  To see students, who have never been mentioned or recognized, beaming with pride as they are being described by their teacher for all the amazing things that each and every one of them bring to our school is something that must be seen and heard.

EVERY child has a strength inside them; it is our job, as educators, to bring this out.  This page is designed to showcase the success stories of schools that have moved away from the traditional awards ceremonies and monthly assemblies that only focus on a select few students to a place where ALL students are recognized for their unique talents and interests.  Most importantly, I want to hear about the impact that this has had on the students.  Student comments on this would be the most powerful.

Please email me you and your students’ story and it will be showcased on this blog.  Please consider these questions to guide your story.

  1. Why did you move away from the traditional format of awards ceremonies?
  2. How are you honouring and recognizing each student or what is your current ceremony format?
  3. What impact has this had on your students? Any examples and stories would be great to read.
  4. Have there been any challenges to this change?
  5. Anything else you would like to add? Any advice for those trying to change the way they recognize students at their school?
  6. Please include your school’s details – grades, city, state/province, country.
  7. Is it ok to use your name on my blog?

If you are not comfortable with writing a post, you can also just email me your school’s name, city, province/state and a brief summary.

Together, let’s create a movement that leads us to recognize ALL students.





For More Links on Awards:

Go to “Rethinking Awards Ceremonies”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. This year, we have a monthly assembly called “Celebrating our Strengths”. Each student is highlighted at some point during the year for ANY strength they have – inside or outside of school. Too, we recognize each child and thank them in a meaningful, relevant way throughout the year.

  2. Please use #noawards hashtag on Twitter for great discussions on this topic!

  3. RE: Recognizing All Students.
    When will you showcase the stories from this blog entry. Very interested in the results. Thanks.

  4. This is so cool.

    I don’t know if they still do this, but I used to work at Kumsheen Secondary School where we had less than 100 students. Students had four blocks a day with a maximum of 8 blocks a semester and classes were less than 20 students.

    Prior to awards day we’d pass around a sheet and for each class we’d elect a boy student and a girl student for a number of categories (academic, most improved, work ethic, ect).

    Because different students have different strengths and their engagement and performance varies from subject to subject, and because classes were so small, chances are every student was acknowledged at least once.

    We also had attendance awards, sports awards, and awards for contributing to the school community.

    Students who were graduating that year got bursaries based on their shop sales (different story) and they were acknowledged.

    It was very time consuming but it paid off. I certainly felt like family the moment I walked through the door and students treated each other with generosity. They helped each other with things and shared their things with enthusiasm.

    The same sort of thing happened with Halloween. The teacher coordinating the event had a million categories and prizes and because the school was so small everyone was celebrated.

    It takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it.

    The student who struggles with reading knows that they struggle with reading. Excluding them from public celebrations won’t make them a better reader. Acknowledging that they’re a worthwhile human being and that everyone has strengths will increase his willigness to engage.

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with the “when the chips are down” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRIKkU6IVRQ , but I think that celebrating all students does a fine job of implementing the principles of when the chips are down.

  5. A terrific idea, I already sent this on to our head and other principals that I know. I was one of those kids who never received anything & remember how it felt. I firmly believe in honoring every child and also letting them know how they have enriched my life. This is probably why I have always been the one with the “different” kids but I wouldn’t change a minute of it. So many of my kids keep in touch because it wasn’t about grades it was about them.

  6. Chris,

    I teach science at Little Falls Community Middle School in Minnesota– hometown of “Charles Lindberg”.

    While searching for articles for my master’s paper literature review, I came across this article. I strongly believe in and “walk-the-walk” with calling parents for positive reasons. I base my teaching around it. Trying to encourage my colleagues to do it isn’t easy. I love to call parents for no other reason than speaking “highly” of their child. I use their grades from tests, their current grade, something they did, etc to start the conversation. I will snap pics of them in class while giving a presentation, or working on a lab and email it to their parent at work. It’s a great feeling. The parents and kids love it!

    I started doing this while I was a substitute. I noticed all the great kids who did their work, gave nothing but respect, and received very little attention from adults or their peers for their great attitudes. So, I started making a few calls. That was in during the “9 -11 “ year and after subbing for 8 years. Since then, (6 years ago) I started as a full time science teacher and my calls are up to over “100 households” a year. There are the negative calls mixed in with that number, but the majorities are purely Positive!! I’m giving a presentation on this subject at the Minnesota State Science Teacher Convention in Mankato on the 2nd of April.

    The research paper I intend to write will be (hopefully) on this subject. Do you know of any sources from journals or other types of resources on this subject to help me? I would greatly appreciate it!!!!

  7. My son had a teacher in grade 5 that started a program where the students identified goals and towards the end of the year, THEY (the students)decided what they did really well that year. There was a grade level ceremony where every student received a certificate with their name and their strengths (some included: this year I liked math, I was extra kind to the new kid, I did well academically, I handed all my homework in on time). It was interesting to see what the students identified as their strengths for the year, as opposed to the adults in their lives. Very powerful to listen to these as a parent. Was so glad this process was changed!!

  8. I’m surprised that this is controversial. Even as an adult, this sort of thing annoys me. A few years ago, my employer had a recognition ceremony for people involved in a major inter-departmental project that was a big success. We had rented an auditorium and everyone involved was given a certificate of appreciation and called up to the stage. In the end, there were more people up on stage than were left in the seats. I felt like a bit of loser sitting there listening to speakers laud the efforts of this team on their achievement. It was a bit of a de-motivator because it felt like my work wasn’t important.

    I was also a kid who often made the honour roll, but missed occasionally because the criteria was usually no mark lower than a B. I always found that to be a bit of an invasion of privacy, having to answer questions about what course I screwed up in.

  9. That actually a great idea. Honoring and recognizing each student in your school for their strengths, talents, and interests would boost their confidence. I would totally support this project.

  10. “Last year the staff at Kent Elementary made a decision that changed the way students are recognized at our school. Instead of awards ceremonies, student of the month assemblies, and honour rolls, we decided to honour and recognize each student in our school for their strengths, talents, and interests (inside and outside of school). ”

    This is something new. Now the big question is what type of awards will you give the kids? And will those kids who performs well in the class still be given recognition as well?

  11. This is totally out of context and not really connected to school awards, but it is connected to your honoring of your students.

    I recently read in The Province about your letter to the Tooth Fairy for a student who had lost the baby tooth she was carrying. I nodded my head and told my husband that is just the thing you would do for any of your students. I decided I would write you telling you how proud we are of you. I still have not totally forgiven you for abandoning SD 78, but I may, someday, given enough time, maybe. But I digress.

    That you took the time not only to help search for the tooth and console this student, but also write such a wonderful note to the Tooth Fairy, showed just how caring of the feelings of this little girl you were. I do not know anyone else, in your position, who would have even thought of it, let alone actually write such a note to a mythical creature of childhood imagination, one which they totally believe exists but most adults do not. You not only had enough imagination to think of it in the first place, but to instinctively think of how the little girl felt about losing something so very special to her.

    Most teachers care about their students, but you go beyond that caring. You have such empathy for them, it is like you can put yourself in their situation and instinctively know what they need to alleviate the hurt and loss they feel. I am sure, in future years, this little girl will look back with much thanks and warm feelings to the administrator who took the time to console the little girl she once was. The rest of us will remember it also, with the same thanks and gratitude.

    If it were in my power, I would give you a medal straight from the Realm of the Grand and Glorious International Tooth Fairy. This award has never been given, not even once, in all of time. It is a honour without precedence. You earned it. You did good, guy!

    With much respect and thanks, I remain,

    Marilyn Warren
    Agassiz, BC

    • Hi Marilyn! Thank you so much for taking the time to write such kind words and share some positives. The tooth fairy letter went a bit crazy and was never intended to be about me but more about sharing the positives that happen in schools each day. During my time at Kent and James Hill, I have had the privilege of working with some incredibly caring teachers that have modeled and taught me so much.

      It is the little moments that make the big difference… moments like you taking the time to comment and reach out.

      Thank you, again!!!

  12. I am working in an institution which is functioning in a village .We started our school in 2006 with a strength of 70 students and presently affiliated to ICSE/ISC Syllabus with a growth of 2500 students.
    In my school we have a programme called Merit day “Honoring the students”. On this occasion all the children in the school are given a chance to enter the stage where we honour them with the grade certificate and crowning ceremony. There is no other school in the world which does the honouring of the students. We honour the entire students on this particular day. A special day is selected with all pomp and glory to honor our students. The main idea of this programme is to motivate the students and there by create a guarantee education and guarantee generation. This programme has been conducted successfully for the past 6 years.It is a unique feature where no other schools have. This programme entered into Limca Book of Records in the year 2016.Govt.of India issued patent for the event recently.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *