Friday, September 21, 2007

Student Is A Star

Our school has a tradition of asking teachers to award football players stars during the week before a game. We email their coach their name, and they receive an adhesive star to wear on their helmet during the game. While I don't mind this in theory, I do mind that it has created a culture of students who will ask for stars, or bargain for stars, rather than understand the stars are awards for above-and-beyond effort. Many of them often feel (and loudly voice) that they should be given stars for doing homework, or coming to class. Sometimes, when I ask for volunteers for activities, they will say, "If I do, can I have a star?"

I tell them consistently that they will never receive a star for asking or bargaining, and if they don't know why, they can come talk to me about it. Since no one has ever come and asked for an explanation, I tend to assume they really do know the spirit in which the star giving is intended, but they try the alternatives anyway.

A student in my last period class has been, since day one, a stellar young man. He has volunteered for everything. He will quiet the students around him when they talk over me. He is funny, and polite, and always positive, with a big smile. He is always volunteering to read the answers to the homework, and when students ask about alternative answers ("Could the answer also be C?"), he takes the initiative immediately and says, "Ms. Thomas will have the final word, but if it were me I'd say no because..." And I know that he has really paid attention to the homework.

I have a lot of pretty awesome kids this year so far, and he is one of them.

Last week, my student teacher told me that this student had gone to him privately and asked, very quietly, "Do you think Ms. Kudu might give out any stars this week?" When my student teacher offered to ask, he said, "Oh, no, that's okay. I'll wait and see."

Somehow, I hadn't realized he was a football player.

So this week I gave him a star. It's been a pretty rough week, and my other football players have been wearing me thin by "jokingly" telling one another, within my earshot, not to bother trying for a star in English class, as well as being all-around disruptive. Today (game day) was especially difficult, and they were especially disrespectful.

During his class today my "star student" waited for a lull, then pulled the little star sticker out of his pocket. "Ms. Kudu, thank you for giving me a star." And he showed it around like it was a prize.

I was so impressed I thanked him back, and told him how much it meant to me that he showed his appreciation for the star. Then I had to leave the room to go to the bathroom, because I must have gotten some dirt in my eyes and they were watering.

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