Today was Reward Day along the hallowed halls of Backroads High.
It's good to reward students for following rules and showing up and passing their classes. Don't think I'm complaining one bit. No. Not Val. Far be it from VAL to voice her displeasure. Some of the kids are a bit more vocal every year. Not in a throw-themselves-on-the-tile-kicking-and-screaming kind of way. More in a general-grumbling-and-mumbling kind of way. Keep in mind that the criteria to be met for Reward Day is listed in the student handbook. It's in folder form, handed out to each student when schedules are picked up. Still, some of them must remember those hazy lazy days of lower elementary, when everybody got an award, and nobody's tender self-esteem was marred by unpleasantness.
"I can't believe I'm not on the list! I only went to in-school suspension ONE time!"
"I was told it's only for second semester. That what you did first semester doesn't count."
"I was told it's for first semester. That what you did SECOND semester doesn't count."
"I'm passing all of my classes but one!"
"I'm passing everything but P.E."
"You guys. Think about it. It's not really worth coming to school every day just to have Reward Day. You can miss way more that three days a semester, and those days you take off can be your own Reward Days."
Sometimes Reward Day is a trip to a theater for a new release movie, with free small soda and popcorn. Sometimes it's a trip to a mall in the city. Sometimes it's a visit to City Museum, or a bowling fun center, or skating. Sometimes it's a barbecue at the park, or open gym, or DVD movies and snacks in the cafeteria. You never know. Today, it was an outdoor sports day with a barbecue to enjoy the 90-degree sunshine. The point is, students get a somewhat unstructured day with their friends to text each other and goof around. Don't think the destination is what makes the day.
Some schools have reward days in which the students who don't qualify must take finals or do busy-work skills worksheets all day to remind them that THEY DIDN'T QUALIFY FOR REWARD DAY. I disagree with this reasoning. First of all, if a final exam is truly to be counted as a final exam, all students need to take it. Nobody should be excused for good behavior. Secondly, students who don't have good enough grades for reward day are punished by possibly lowering their grades even more with a final exam. And that busy work? It's cruel and unusual punishment. Because it doesn't matter if you give the unrewarded kids a pony and cotton candy, THEY STILL KNOW THEY ARE MISSING FUN TIME WITH THEIR FRIENDS. No matter how they try to rationalize it.
"It's so hot out there. I'm glad I'm inside."
"Yeah. It's nice and cool in here. We're not getting a sunburn."
"And they're getting all dirty on the softball field. Yuck."
"The wind would mess up my hair."
Yes, those left behind know they are not being rewarded. Our policy is to treat the day in the way you deem appropriate. Short of taking your class outside to watch Reward Day, that is.
Still. They know. The unrewarded. Better luck next year. Everybody has the same chance.