January 15, 2003
January 15, 2003
When I was in elementary school I loved sports and music. It was with pride that I received various blue and red ribbons acknowledging my sports accomplishments, along with many certificates for my musical endeavors. When I moved to Japan, I sold my belongings and just brought the essentials. Within that shipment was one box of sentimental mementos, which held, among other things, the ribbons and certificates I received as a child.
Little did my teachers of so many years ago know that a young elementary school student would treasure those ribbons and certificates to the degree that she would hold on to them for decades and, as an adult, crate them half way across the world in a box of keepsakes.
I mention this little bit of my own personal history to drive home the point that children thrive on recognition and respect. In light of this, I would like to ask you to think about your own classes and ponder if you, as a teacher, are giving enough opportunities for recognition to your students in the English classroom.
In my case, I never received much recognition at home, but I did enjoy an ample supply of it at school; thus, I place great importance on student recognition. Actually, the road to mastering a foreign language is a very long and arduous one; the more recognition given, the shorter the steps seem from one crossroad to another. Certificates of accomplishment are a wonderful way to orchestrate pride and confidence in students studying English.
At our school we have a "Student of the Month" award. Each month it is given for a different reason, depending on the student. Some of the categories the teachers have decided on are: the best homework, the best handwriting, the best reading, the best penmanship, the best pronunciation, the most cooperative, the most helpful, the most improved, etc. This way any student, even the shy child, has a chance to receive the award. The teachers have a monthly meeting to decide who the student of the month will be.
When we give the certificate, we call the mother ahead of time, so she can come to the school to see the ceremony. The student receives the certificate and a bouquet of flowers in front of his or her classmates, after which a picture is taken with the teacher.
Actually, receiving a certificate can make better students out of your pupils. For example, I had one student many years ago who was very spoiled at home and poorly behaved in class to the point of being rude. Since I am a fairly strict teacher and could channel his energy in a positive way, he eventually did reasonably well in my class. Thus, I decided to give him the most improved student award. I'll never forget the day we announced it and called out his name. He just stood there in shock. He couldn't believe he was being singled out for such recognition. I am certain it was the first time in his school career that he received positive recognition from a teacher. His mother called us to thank us, and in this case, this award really made a difference; he was truly a model student from that day forward.
Please be generous with your recognition of your students. Who knows, maybe someday one of your pupils will treasure the certificate you give her and pack it away in a box of keepsakes for the rest of her life, like I have mine.
Helene Jarmol Uchida is a veteran teacher with teaching, curriculum development and teacher training experience in the U.S., Greece and Japan. She is the director of the Fukuoka-based Little America English Schools and lectures at Fukuoka Kyoiku Daigaku. She holds the LATEM seminars every year in cities throughout Japan and is also the author of 'The Challenge Book', an interactive English book and CD especially created for Japanese elementary school students.
See also our Interview with Helene Jarmol Uchida.