Today, on the last day of the first semester, I held an award show in my classes. As we reach the halfway point of the year, I designed the show as a way to pause and take stock of what we’ve built together thus far. It was a celebration of us. I teach Algebra 2. Naturally, I called it The Algey Awards.
Normally, before I try something new in my class, I consult my students. If I want to modify an upcoming assignment, I ask them for advice on how to do it. If I’m looking to introduce a new classroom routine, I find out what my students think about it first. The more years I teach, the more I come to rely on my students to guide me. Their counsel has become indispensable.
But with The Algeys, I kept them in the dark. In the week leading up to today, I dropped hints about an “award show” on the last day of the semester to build anticipation, but that’s it. Nothing more. Many of my students — including my cogen — wanted to know what I was up to. I was mum. I wanted The Algeys to be a surprise. It was my gift to them.
To dress up the room and make it feel congratulatory, I picked some cheap decorations from Party City. I also paid a visit to the local dollar store for balloons.
I had a red carpet!
And the awards? They were fun. Every student got one and they were all different. Each was based on some connection I have with the student who received it (or at least something I know about them). For example, one student got an award for “Creating the First Handshake of the Year.” Another student got the award for “Giving Mr. P the best homework assignments” because she always assigns me a playful ‘homework’ in her Friday Letters.
There was no way I was going to give out awards and not have certificates. For this I headed over to Canva and used one of their templates. After some simple edits, hitting them up a logo, and doing a mail merge, the certificates were done.
The certificates were a nice touch, but I also wanted to find a cheap memento that could accompany it. It had to be something that students could hold, like the Oscar statuette. Luckily, a colleague came up big. He’s a pro at 3D printing and, despite being in the middle of midterms, graciously helped me make a neat little infinity sign that could serve as a physical representation of The Algey Award. Over the course of a few days, he printed over sixty of these bad boys! They were small, but perfect.
The first annual Algey Awards were so exciting that they have me thinking about June. What if I did another show? But instead of it being me who creates and presents awards to students, what if my students created and presented awards to each other? My cogen could help with this a lot. Not sure if it will happen, but if it does, it would be a fantastic way to wrap up the year.
Other than the fun and novelty of the event and the appreciation my students felt, I loved The Algeys because they encouraged me to reflect on the relationships that I’ve formed with individual students. Thinking of their awards and formally presenting them in class filled me with so much love and joy. At the same time, the fact that some of the awards were easier to identify than others was striking. For several students, discovering their award was a struggle for me. It’s clear that I need to foster better relations with these kids in the months ahead.
The Algeys also got me to recognize progress. They helped me see that I don’t need to wait until the end of the year to celebrate my students. We have a lot left to accomplish this year, but that shouldn’t distract me from what we’ve already managed to pull off. If anything, it makes me more eager and excited to see how the second semester will play out.
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