Honor Roll

Monday, March 11, 2013
"First grade A Honor Roll and AB Honor Roll students please come to the stage." The principal says with a half smile. Dozens of parents smile wide, proud smiles as their child takes the stage. Each child is handed a certificate with a shiny seal and sent on their merry way. 

Cameras flash, flowers and balloons are even given to the happy first graders. Some moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas stay for lunch. This is what is going right in our schools! 

What? What about the other students? Where were the non-A Honor Roll and AB Honor Roll first graders OR the students with all A's or A's and B's but their conduct kept them away from the coveted certificate with the shiny seal? They are sitting on the floor near the wall watching their peers (or at least pretending.) 

"This will encourage them to do better next quarter." says a teacher.

"Yes," a parent chimes in, "they need to have goals and role models like these." 
Photo @varguy
I recently attended one of these assemblies and while maybe they are meant to be celebratory and fun, they are a shame. They are outdated and in poor taste. I feel so strongly about this as both a teacher and a mother. I am so proud to teach in an elementary school where we respect all students and their personal goals. 

This one size fits all/none assemblies are ridiculous on sooo many levels, but here are a few:

1. What a waste of instructional time. Seriously. Instead of having this "to do" four times a year, how about you go work with a few struggling students, challenge the gifted, or plan a hands on event for everyone?
2. Those sidelined students are NOT learning from this experience. It is instead making them feel worse about themselves 4 times a year. It is shameful....not for them, but the grownups in charge. 
3. The students receiving the certificates are happy, but would be just as happy carrying that certificate home on the bus....maybe even with a personal note from the teacher! 
4. Attendance awards, ooh, I won't even go there. NOT IN A CHILD's CONTROL!!! Sorry, I said I wouldn't go there!

Can we please, pretty please with sugar on top, discuss a better way to celebrate student success? 


  1. So, so, so agree with you! Both as a teacher and as the mom of a kid who never, ever made the honor roll, no matter how hard he tried. Watching other kids didn't make him want to try harder, instead it eventually made him shut down. Thanks for sharing this very important thinking.

    1. Thanks. This has been eating away at me. Just can't see the other side of it. Usually I can...but not on this one.

  2. I agree. If they are going to celebrate the honor roll students, I think it should be an invite only event outside of school hours.

  3. As a parent I couldn't agree with you more. At Dodgen Middle School they send a certificate home in the mail with a letter from the Principal which is nice and doesn't waste any time by the teachers or students. And I agree that it doesn't help the kids who don't get there want to get there - some kids no matter how hard they try will never get there and they shouldn't be made to feel bad about that.
    Never understood the attendance awards - let's encourage sick children to go to school - that never made sense to me. I've told my kids since they started school - never going to happen - so put it out of your mind!

  4. Thank you for saying this Lyssa! As parents, I would hope that we are not that hyper focused on student "achievement" and grades that we forget to embrace the gifts and talents of each child. The world needs students with a variety of skills so that we have not only our doctor, engineers and lawyers but also our chef and our artists and our car mechanics and factory workers. While I agree that I like the certificate they do at Dodgen, I am upset that our PTA spends $800 a quarter, yes that is $3200 a year on mailing honor roll certificates home to the students when they could go home in a backpack. We are told they mail them so the parents can see them and they make it home. But that clearly says to me that this is being done to make the parents happy not to make the students proud or feel a sense of achievement. And I think about what that $3200 could do for the school... several new laptops, supplies, etc.. If you are a Dodgen parent and agree, please voice this to administration as several of us already have. The only way we can change things is to let the schools know, we don't want this. We have to let our voice be heard if we want this to change. Thank you for being a catalyst Lyssa to get the conversation going.


Thank you for your comments. Words matter. :)


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