Ribbons

I made some joyful changes in my classroom this year. I stopped using a prize box and I threw away my behavior chart. 

Instead of behavior tricks and treats, I talk with my kids. Of course, I’ve always talked to my kids in the past, but this year, with the absence of rewards we are talking much more.

It is easy to say move your clip up! Or move that clip DOWN! And just as easy to send a kid to the prize box for a reward. 

It takes more time to praise a child — TRULY praise a child — than it does to hand out a prize or a ticket. 

It also takes time to talk problems out with a child or with a group of children. 

But this is always time well spent. 

Over the past few months, my kids have become a close community of friends who have each others’ backs in all situations. They cheer for each other and cry with each other. They have developed empathy – a rare and wonderful thing in the world of five and six year old children. I think they have done this because these behaviors are modeled for them every day in the conversations we have and the interactions we share. 

But this post isn’t about my lack of a system of rewards and punishments. 

It’s about ribbons. 

My school used to have an assembly every quarter to celebrate our students’ successes. Ribbons were awarded to kids for citizenship (behavior) and academics. In kinders, we typically gave ribbons to everyone the first quarter. How could we say that a student wasn’t trying hard to do his or her best during the first few weeks of formal schooling, or the second, third or fourth quarters, for that matter?

Awards were also handed out by the specials’ teachers and the cafeteria and custodial staff. 

Parents were encouraged to attend. And kids were always proud when they did.

The event was cheerful, loud and fun.

I always used it as a time to encourage my kids to show support for others. If we didn’t win any of the class awards, we cheered for those who did. 

But this year, the event was cancelled. Teachers were informed this week via email that a decision was made to not have quarterly school-wide assemblies. 

We were told that ribbons must STILL be handed out. But teachers have been directed to have a classroom event that is to last only a “couple of minutes.” During that event, we are to celebrate and hand out said ribbons. 

We were told be be sure to discuss with our students what it means to receive the citizenship ribbon and/or the academic ribbon.

I have lots of thoughts about what it now means. None of them can be shared with kindergarteners. Most of those thoughts include very bad words. Not kindergarten bad words like silly and stupid. Really, really bad words. 

And maybe I should simply be happy that I no longer have to reconcile the school-wide ceremony with my decision to not reward my kids with trinkets or ribbons.

But I am angry at the arbitrary way this decision was handed down to us. And at the way we have been dictated to perform the ceremony on our own. 

No such ceremony will happen in my room.

Since this is my kids’ first year in school, they have no memories of awards assemblies. I don’t plan on sullying their experience with a sham of a ceremony. 

I think I will just sneak in an indoor recess or free play time. 

Celebrations? We do them all day long.