Every month I leverage the mighty role of the principal to build a leader in one of my amazing students. You see, as a student myself, I started to drift away from caring about academics in about 7th grade. It was a combination of factors: school was a low priority at home, I had underdeveloped organization skills, and (like many middle schoolers) friends and fitting in were my top priorities. I quickly became a leader among my peers – not in GPA, but as the person who would always make sure class was entertaining. I suspect that you know several kids like me!
Though I know that not all students are like I was, I am constantly on the lookout of the students who have a ton of informal leadership power. Their peers look up to them, follow their lead, and admire their confidence. But when it comes to academics – meh. That is my ideal candidate for my monthly Principal’s Award.
I am so fortunate to work with an Assistant Principal and a School Counselor who know just what I’m talking about. We are all looking for those students who are disconnected from school but who come every day, if only to see their friends or their favorite teacher. The leader – the fringe kid – the ‘so much potential’ – the one who maybe needs some adult attention more than others. Then we leverage our confidence in them…and often watch them flourish!
Here’s What We Do:
Each month, we talk as a team (and encourage nominations from teachers) about students who might need just a little nudge from one of us – someone who (with a little boost) might rise to the challenge of doing all their homework this month; being on time each day or for each class; improve their grades on tests.
These students are let into a quiet, special conversation where we say something like this (keep in mind this convo is in middle school context):
Mock Convo... teacher to student “Hey, I get the sense that you’re ready to do something different when it comes to your attendance. You know how I know? I could see that look on your face last time we called home for your tardies. You looked…like, disappointed in yourself. I know you don’t want to be tardy to Mr. G’s class each day. So I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Have you heard of the Principal’s Award? (no) Well, each month, Principal P. awards one student and their family with the Principal’s Award; she has a whole wall dedicated to them in her office – have you seen it? (yes) Do you know what it takes to get that award? (no) Do better. Have you noticed who those kids are who get it? Not just the kids who always get good grades – the winners are hard working, overcoming students who had a school issue and slayed it. And you know what, if you show me over the next three weeks that you are serious about changing that behavior – I’m going to nominate YOU for that award this month. At the end of the year, she hosts a special dinner for the winners and their families PLUS the person that nominated them! What do you say, will you kick some butt and let me have dinner with your family!?” (insert laughter)
Displaying Award Winners
In my office, I have a long wire display (like this one from Amazon). I have a blank 8×10 piece of white card stock hanging for every month, with the month printed along the bottom of the page. As winners are chosen, I proudly display their photo atop this card stock. I also ask the students to write a reflection on the back of the page about why they are proud for earning this.
Share your ideas of how you recognize overcomers and triumphant students! Join the conversation on Instagram and tag @opendoorprincipal