Something I’ve been thinking a lot about in my Radical Dreaming Year, is the notion of Student of the Month. In my years of teaching, we’ve always had some kind of monthly assembly or recognition where the Student of the Month is presented an award. In my last grade six class, one of the students told me that he had gotten the responsibility award every September since junior kindergarten. “Eight years running,” he joked. By the time he graduated he had a full decade of September Responsibility Award Certificates!

For a long while, the student of the month criteria had been pre-determined by someone unknown to the school community who felt children should be recognized for things like responsibility, courage, trustworthiness, etc. These character traits were displayed on a beautiful banner as the ones demonstrated by exemplary students.

I’ve also been in places where criteria has been based on academic achievement. There was a little more flexible thinking here, in that it allowed some space for discussion amongst educators about what achievement means to us. It could be the highest mark, it could be the most effort, it could be taking risks, or something else entirely.

In my last school, our staff was beginning a journey about rethinking student of the month recognition. We wanted it to be authentic and important for students to feel that the assemblies and gatherings were community building, a place to celebrate one another, and perhaps learn and share with the school. Classes would share what they were learning about and perhaps a small slide deck featuring some work or students speaking at the microphone. I think this was the most authentic and interesting of all the assembly styles!

As I think about what Radical Dreaming means to me this year, I’m wondering if I missed the opportunity to build something with students and community in the school. Imagine if I asked the students, what do you think our monthly assemblies should look like? Perhaps they would only come up with some of their past experiences (after all, that’s where my mind goes), but maybe we could dream about other possibilities, like learning opportunities, like an art show, or a guest speaker, or something else entirely! At my last school, the entire school community would sing the school song together at every assembly, led by teachers, and it was incredible!

I wonder what parents might like to let us know about assemblies. Parents, who are able, will attend gatherings and it’s a great time to be part of the school community with their children. We want them to attend and build partnerships with us. What do they think is important to recognize? What might they like to see happening at assemblies and gatherings?

I think about my own children. Some of them received awards annually – but some of them did not. How do they view themselves and their abilities in school? How does that influence what they think their teachers see and feel about them? What would they like to see happening? Could we find a way for every child to participate or be recognized? It’s not about “everybody gets a medal”; it’s about seeing something good in every child at school so they feel like they belong and are seen.

Radical dreaming takes time and community. I know that in the meanwhile the traditions may still be in place while we start to think about our beliefs, build alliances and trust with students and families, but we can work together to build something new. It may look several different ways before we find something we love – and it may feel overwhelming, so we take it slow and steady. Building community is a process and it’s in the process that we build meaningful relationships.


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