Awards Ceremonies: Should School Put Students on a Pedestal?

By: Havah Bernstein

On February 15th, Clinton hosted the 2018 upper grades award ceremony for students with perfect attendance, honor or high honor roll, and a student who best exemplified the IB traits in each individual subject.

Award ceremonies that celebrate grades are nothing new to students at Clinton. We work at a certain level, then forget about the ceremony for a while until staff calls the whole grade down to the library to watch students receive an award or not.

This year the awards were organized so students received their awards with a round of applause while they stayed in their seats. This system did not put students on the spot as much as having students line up in front of the grade to collect the award. It was planned that students would stand up to receive the awards, but there was not enough time.

Eleventh grader Denise Demaliaj agreed with students staying in their seats. She said, “Everybody would have to stand up there, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people would be uncomfortable with it. I mean, I know I would be.”

It’s uncomfortable for everyone involved. Students who work hard for grades work hard for their own personal goals. Some may want certain grades to impress people, but they can do that on their own time. The school should not organize a ceremony for that.

Clinton is a strong community and students are quick to help each other learn. Few students want to make others feel bad, so it’s no doubt that standing in front of students who did not get certain grades just to hold an award is uncomfortable.

Ms. Hayley Ehrlich, upper grades IB Coordinator and ICT teacher, explained that the awards “could be inspiring for students to work a little bit harder.” This is a common belief among staff, and it makes sense. High schoolers are obsessed with following others, so perhaps creating an environment where certain students with high grades are praised will guide other students to want that as well. In some cases that does work: students work hard to prove to their peers what they’re capable of. But if our motivation to achieve in academics is because of social acceptance then what is the point?

Associating grades with our peers may boost a few averages every once in a while, but for the most part, it creates a connotation for grades that can be incredibly discouraging.

Vivian Ma, 11th grade, stated, “It makes me want to just stop working. It takes away the joy from learning because I always strive to compare myself to other people instead of just thriving.”

Last year a friend of mine was heartbroken for not receiving high honors. Her average was a fraction of a point off, so it was not about the grade; she was worried about what her friends would think when she wasn’t called up.

The awards this year also included students that thrived in individual classes and exemplified the IB Learner Profile Traits. This setup was a step in the right direction.

Demaliaj said that it allowed everyone “to honor all of the people that showed their special skills and strengths and not only grade-wise but just how they act around the classroom.”

While these awards are helpful because they acknowledge success is not just in high grades, students can also be left to feel like a certain teacher does not appreciate them the way they thought that teacher did, or that they aren’t as good in a subject as they had once believed.

We hear enough about the importance of grades when we talk about colleges and summer programs. We are stressing over negligible grade differences or crying over a GPA that doesn’t feel good enough. We don’t need a ceremony telling us our “status,” and we certainly don’t need school to force grades into our social lives.

Categories: Opinion

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