How Should We Celebrate?




Last night I attended the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Awards, known informally as the “EDies”. The event is corporately sponsored by McDonalds and various educational companies, while co-sponsored by our local colleges and universities and our state’s professional organizations (such as NHASCD). These diverse organizations pick yearly winners to represent the “best” in our field. We pack a very large room at the largest hotel in Southern New Hampshire, have a great dinner, and we listen to short speeches delivered by nervous educators. The event’s Master of Ceremonies is Fred Bramante, a well known former Chair of the State Board of Education, successful entrepreneur, and one-time candidate for Governor.

Not everyone is comfortable accepting recognition as our field generally transcends individual feats. While popular media loves to exalt the omnipotent teacher (Mr. Holland’s Opus, Dead Poet’s Society, Stand and Deliver) or the uber-dedicated and absurdly tough Principal (Lean on Me, The Principal), the reality is that our field is primarily a team sport. When we accept accolades we can picture scores of educators who are easily equal to our accomplishments.

On a national level, the Bammy Awards have been recently created to identify and acknowledge “the extraordinary work being done across the entire education field every day”. Since the nominating and voting is completed online, the early winners were a list of educators with Twitter followers above 10,000 . But the governing board and intent and purpose appear pure, so I hold out hope that the Bammys will celebrate in the proper way as the years continue. The greatest danger is that we create rock stars of our teachers and administrators. 

Nearly 10 years ago Rick and Becky Dufour and colleagues wrote in Learning By Doing that we should make…

“regular public recognition of specific collaborative efforts, accomplished tasks, achieved goals, team learning, continuous improvement, and support for student learning remind staff of their collective commitment…” 

They also emphasized that celebrating as a team is invaluable as anyone who has played a team sport knows:

“Make teams the focus of recognition and celebration. Take every opportunity to acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of teams.” (Dufour, Dufour, Eaker, Many 2006.)

So, let’s continue the awards. The recognition is good for our profession and is likely to spread good will for all of us. But the more we celebrate our local successes, the stronger our schools become, especially when we celebrate as a team. 

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