Thursday, April 15, 2010

End of Year Awards

It's that time of year again, when we are planning how to recognize the accomplishments of our students, celebrate their learning and thank the families for their support. The students have put in the hard work, and have already experienced the intrinsic rewards associated with their efforts: pride, satisfaction, pleasure. They know who they are, but this is the time when we let them know that we know that they know, y'know?

The awards ceremony that I'm working on is our Latin Awards Night, an annual gathering that is a venue for presenting several specific Latin awards. We have over 400 Latin students in our program in grades 6-12, and when we incorporate our awards in the other academic ceremonies, it becomes a Latin spotlight, so we have split off, and instead have an hour of our own on a weeknight evening. This year we will be presenting National Latin Exam Awards (about 100 of the students earned this national distinction and we recognize them by level of Latin I, II, III, IV, V) and National Latin Honor Society awards (sorted by grade 6-12) to about 150 students (some overlap). We also recognize our Latin club officers, students who earned significant awards at our Ohio Junior Classical League Latin convention, and our seniors who are graduating after spending 6 years in our Latin program.

When we began handing out awards years ago, (no it was not BC), it was just two Latin teachers and a more intimate gathering. Now, with four teachers and hundreds of students, we're analyzing our format to grow with the demands. Last year I fielded some constructive criticism from middle school parents who mentioned the length of the program, which was 1 hour 10 minutes (we went 10 minutes over), in relation to the amount of time that their child was recognized (2 minutes for a name announced and a group photo). Some parents also were turned off by our senior tributes at the end of the program. The point is to give our students a personalized send-off with anecdotes from their classroom experiences, and a nod to their endurance. However, I can see that if a parent has a 7th grader who needs to get to a soccer practice, you may not want to hear one more time how delightfully witty the insights of "Senior
Susie" have been from Caesar through Sallust, and that she always ends her essays with "Carthago delenda est!"

Igitur, we are working on tweaking the format. I still want the overall message to be that our Latin program is doing a great job of helping kids succeed, and that we go the extra mile to meet individual's needs. But, I want the parents and students to walk out of the room thinking, "that was worth my time", not "that was another endless end of year award ceremony during which I wanted to stab my eyes out with red-hot pokers". (note Oedipus, left) Not that I've ever been to an award ceremony like that with my two delightful children.

As I've gotten started, the first thing that I realize is that we're (the teachers) going to have to collaborate so that we streamline the talking. Second, staging and directions for moving the people from "recognition area" to "picture area" is going to have to be considered. Last, I think that using technology to base the senior recognition is going to be key. We have a large projection screen with sound in the space we use, so I'm playing with Animoto to create a 30-second short for each of the seven seniors. It can be presented while we do the transition between awards, and followed up with 30 seconds of live remarks from an appreciative teacher.

Have you found unique ways of making the awards ceremonies real celebrations (sine ocular desecration)? I'm talking logistics. Things beyond the program, flowers, refreshments, decorations and displays. Because when it comes down to it, you remember the people and the relationships, not the balloons. Suggestions welcome.


tech guy said...

Interesting problem.....
I want my child recognize but please do not spend too much time recognizing older kids.

Yes, we are all busy and 1hr10min on a school night is tough. So what is it..roughly the length of a sporting event (if not a bit shorter). Maybe you need more action or competition since a 1 hour game often seems shorter.

Part of me wants to say, come on people, this is what we do for our kids.

Seriously though I think you you need to figure out a way to either recognize only the older kids or the bigger awards or break the night into smaller/shorter functions. Latin Awards open house....or Latin I-II night, Seniors night.... It means more work and time for you obviously but it might work.

If you want to recognize some of the younger MS students separately what about making a video for the web that serves as your recognition. Parents can watch it, download, and have a keep sake and the beauty is they can do it late at night or from work if they choose.

Just some thoughts....


Andrea Weis said...

Excellent suggestions, thanks Mark! We want the younger children to see the older students get their awards, because they walk away saying "that will be me in a few years". So I don't want to lose the 6-12 continuity. I really like the idea of splitting off into smaller groups.

Sports awards has done this very nicely in that all sports have a general meeting, then the various sports separate to have their individual recognition, then they return for a send-off.

You hit it on the head with making it SEEM shorter. I've considered using clickers with trivia questions.

Video, yes. K.C. put together a great one last year, and we are planning another for this year.