As the school year winds down, we hit the time of year where teaching is hard. The weather is turning nice, my seniors are picking up their graduation materials, the standardized testing is in full swing, and everyone is ready for school to just be over. However, it is during this time of year that one of my favorite activities happens - end of year awards. We have worked and grown all school year and now I have a chance to recognize them for all of their awesomeness!! Of course, student recognition is done in bits and pieces throughout the school year, but the end of the year awards are the icing on the cupcake!
For my music classes, awards day is an informal event held in class close to the end of the school year. Some of my awards are teacher-given and some are superlatives awarded by student vote. For student-vote awards, I hand out a voting sheet (be sure to keep reading to snag the freebie voting sheet and teacher cheat sheet!) However, the descriptors on the voting sheet only give students half the story. For example, one voting statement says 'The student that is always willing to help others." In actuality, the award is called The Life Saver Award and includes a pack of Life Savers candies!!
A couple of random bits about end-of-year awards.
1. My awards days are informal, so we feature some serious awards and some funny awards, superlative style. No one knows your kiddos like you do. If you go the superlative route, make sure no one is going to leave with hurt feelings. After all, this is supposed to be FUN, but not embarrassing.
2. *Personal soapbox ahead. If you don't like soap, hit the bypass!!** I don't care for the 'everyone gets an award just because' type of events. I have attended these types of events and it feels fake, forced, and devalues the whole point of getting an award. First of all, in life everyone does not get an award. Secondly, done wrong, this direction can lead to more harm than good. If awards are meant to be valuable and exclusive, giving everyone an award just for showing up diminishes the value.
With all of that said, here is a list of 28 fun, cool, awesome awards to consider for the end of the year! Scroll all the way to the bottom for your voting ballot and teacher cheat sheet *Freebie*
Superlatives determined by student votes
1. Most likely to take music class selfies
2. G.O.A.T Award: awarded to best piano player/singer/percussionist, etc.
3. Mr. & Miss Congeniality
4. Office Max Award: student who always has paper and pencil to lend out to others (throw in a pack of paper and pencils along with a certificate!)
5. Loudest Student
6. Lisa Frank Award: most likely to blog about kittens, rainbows, and unicorns
7. Clean Plate Award: student always trying to eat in class
--The following awards are candy themed, so thrown in some sweet treats!--
8. Snicker Award: student with the most unique laugh
9. Jolly Rancher Award: student always telling jokes or making others laugh
10. Mounds Award: student always having 'mounds' of fun
11. Lifesaver Award: student always willing to help others
12. Mint Award: for the student 'mint' for greatness
13. Starburst Award: for the student who is destined to be a star
14. 100 Grand Award / PayDay Award: for the student most likely to appear on a music reality show
15. The Whopper Award: for the student who always has a story to tell
Awards Given By The Teacher
16. Early Bird Award: student who usually arrives to class first (throw in some gummy worms because the early bird...well...you know!!)
17. Club 100: students who maintain a 99-100 GPA for the entire school year in music class
18. Repeat Offender: students who have spent multiple years in a class/ensemble OR in more than one ensemble (I had several 'repeat offenders' this year who were enrolled in both my piano and chorus class)
19. Senior Citizen Award: award given to graduating seniors
20. Rookie of the Year: awarded to an outstanding freshman OR first-year ensemble student
21. Survivor Award: student who stuck with it when it got hard (musically, academically, or personally)
22. Most Improved Musician
23. Always on Time: students with no (or very few) tardies
24. Section Leaders
25. Attendance Awards
26. Excellence in Musicianship/Sight-reading/Sight-singing
27. Participation in a special event, such as a volunteer performance or community service.
28. Mid-State/All-State/Solo/Ensemble performers
Wait! Don't forget your **FREEBIE**
Give your students the award ballot for their votes and keep the cheat sheet for yourself! Enjoy! Feel free to edit the document so you give only the awards you want to give :-)
What are some other awards you give your students at the end of year? Sharing is CARING! Comment below with your ideas!!
I recently shared a story on my Facebook page about a rather innocent, fun experience I had at school. I played the nicest, friendliest game of Dirty Santa with some awesome high school music students. This game was unlike any other game of Dirty Santa that I have ever played. Our rules were simple: 1. Bring a wrapped or bagged gift (real or gag) 2. Everyone who brings a gift will draw a number to determine the order you choose or steal a gift 3. When it is your turn, pick a gift from the gift table or steal a gift from someone who already has one. 4.Whatever gift you have after everyone has taken a turn is the gift you keep. Of course, I played, too. Why let the kids have all the fun? I got more out of it than I thought.
My expectation was crazy, wacky gifts, people stealing gifts, and the usual shenanigans that happen when you play a game of Dirty Santa with people that you know very well. That is not at all what happened. Only one person stole a gift (it was Starbucks Hot Chocolate - totally worth stealing!) and not a single person brought a gag gift. These kids gave each other DVDs, flannel throws, stuffed penguins, and fancy journals. It was just awesome kids giving each other awesome gifts because they wanted everyone to have something nice.
The whole experience hit me right in the feels. Why? Because it is December. December for a music teacher is a rough, ruthless, unforgiving time of year filled with concerts, rehearsals, exams, end-of-semester duties, and personal/professional musical engagements. I have used the phrase "I can't...I have rehearsal" many times so far this month alone. Music teachers need a little more love during the winter months, and the past week had been especially rough for me. It was performance day. I had to fix a microphone that had not worked during sound check the day before, move items into the auditorium, copy handouts for my chorus class, but not my piano class because sometimes the copy machine hates me. After all of that running around, feet hurting, out of breath, mad at machines, 20 million things on my mind (did I mention it was concert day?!), I then have an administrator walk in on the madness to formally observe me. As I watched my principal walk in, I kept thinking to myself *Please be here to drop off something...please don't sit down...please don't evaluate me as a teacher based upon concert day madness.* Well, he sat down and watched roughly 80 minutes of me forgetting where I left my pencil and trying not to think about the 20 million things I still had left to do before my chorus hit the stage that night. This on top of text messages and emails that said "I can't run lights and sound for you tonight because my mom won't let me,' and 'I forgot my black shoes. Can I wear these red ones?' and 'I don't have a ride home so I can't perform tonight.' It is the kind of week that makes a music teacher think about going to Burger King. No, not to eat - to fill out a job application and leave the zoo to the zoo keepers.
Then, Dirty Santa happened. And all these kids wanted to do was be nice and make people feel good about themselves. In that moment, I was reminded of WHY statements. Back in my former life in business, I was always told to write a WHY statement addressing WHY I do what I do, WHY I want to do it, and WHY nothing can make me not do it. I never wrote a WHY statement as a teacher. Now WHY is that?! On that day in that time, I was reminded of WHY I teach music. I don't do it because it's easy because OMGOODNESS it is not easy. I don't teach music because of administrators or sound checks or copy machines. I teach music because of students. I teach music because many years ago there was a music teacher who believed in me. I teach music because music makes a difference in the lives of us all. When I look at my WHY, I forget about the fast food applications and get back to work teaching. The teaching profession is not for the weak of heart, stomach, or mind. For all of my fellow music teacher friends, stay strong and encouraged and let us not ever forget WHY we do what we do. When we feel ourselves drowning in paperwork, administrative duties, parents, students, lesson plans, rehearsals, politics, and grades, let us remind ourselves WHY we do what we do. And never, EVER forget WHY. The moment we lose our WHY is the moment we leave it all behind, and our students need us to know and believe in our WHY.
Why do you teach? If you don't teach, is there a teacher you can thank and encourage during this winter season? Share your thoughts with me here or on Facebook. I would love to read it! In sharing WHY we teach, we can not only encourage others, but also ourselves.
Playing piano with my fingers, arms, legs, feet, heart, soul, and mind
This post is a bit different from my previous ones. This one is a bit more personal. I started playing piano as a teenager, mainly because I wanted to be a better singer. In the end, I came to love playing as much as singing, and today I do quite a bit of both. As a teacher, I often have to remind my students - while at the same time reminding myself - of exactly how one plays the piano. There are two ways that I reflect on these words. First, I take it in as a technical statement of playing piano with the whole body. Then, I take it in as an emotional statement of playing piano from the heart. If we are technically accurate, but lacking in heart, we are only halfway right.
Piano takes more than fingers. It takes the arms, back, legs, hands, feet, wrists, and elbows. It is a full-body experience just like running. Confession time - I am not much of a runner. If you see me running, you should run, too, because something is chasing me or the sky is falling, or there is free chocolate. I don't run for exercise or for fun, but I will also acknowledge that I probably should. Yet, as someone who has had to run (read here: PE class or running down the hall to let my kids in after lunch), I know that running is more than just moving my feet. It's a full-body experience that leaves me breathless when I'm done. Piano, and all music in general, should give that same breathless feeling when you finish. That's the only way to know that you have truly given your all to your instrument. Not to mention, it is good technique. Thankfully, no real running is required!
Piano takes more than fingers. It takes heart and soul. In a day and age of standardized testing, differentiated instruction, and documented student growth, it can be a challenge to make room for the heart of it all. When someone makes the statement "I love music because..." it is rarely followed up with something addressing a musical skill or technical sequence. It is usually followed by a mood, emotion, visual, image, or other abstract idea. As a music teacher, when I think about why I started teaching music, it has nothing to do with technique and everything to do with the feelings in, around, and throughout the music itself. I focus on technique because I honor the musical craft, but I honor music by playing with more than just my fingers - I play with my heart and soul as well.
Let me encourage us all to teach the techniques, teach the skills, and properly assess, but don't forget to show your students that you play piano with more than just your fingers.
What do you love about the piano? About music? About teaching music? Leave a comment and share your 'why' and how your students find their 'why' as well! Would love to hear it!
I am a music educator and lover of all food stuffs! Thank you for spending some of your day with me here on my blog. Read more...