Celebrating Success

by Arlene Birt


Photo by Kuanish Reymbaev on Unsplash

Our team meeting agenda said we would celebrate successes and find areas to improve upon as we discussed testing results. I was disappointed after the meeting that there were no successes noted for my class, while other classes and teachers received many words of commendation. I decided to turn this into a learning experience for myself in my classroom – I will think about these questions, “How can I make sure that ALL of my students feel celebrated? Do I recognize each child every day?”

It can be difficult in a large class to recognize each child every day, but I purpose to do so. I begin the day by standing at the doorway and saying “hello” to each child as they come in. I will listen to those who come to me with questions. (Sometimes I can’t listen at that time, but will tell them I want to hear it – can they tell me at break or lunch?) At break, recess, and lunch I can continue making contacts. As I circulate throughout the classroom while the children are working, I will comment on each one’s work. I may alert them to a correction, or encourage them to be neat, but they will be noticed. I might not get to each student on every page, but throughout the day I will comment to everyone.

As I read over this, it sounds rather ambitious! I’m thinking back over this day – I greeted each student this morning; I listened to several stories and questions; I chatted with some students at break, lunch, and recess time. I commented on work, I complimented some things, I apologized to a student, I purposely praised a student who had been corrected. I think everyone was recognized positively today.

Sometimes this celebration may be for the whole class: “Thank you for working quietly and independently while I was listening to the Bible memory tests. That really helps me.” “Everyone has 100% on this assignment!” “Yes! We all remembered how to come in from recess.”

Many times, the celebration is with words – a comment, a written note, or words to the class. It might be a sticky note, a certificate, or an email to parents. The celebration may be in actions – we give a cheer for our class, we do a silent cheer (waving our arms), we pat ourselves on the back, we shake hands with our partners. I have a large “clapper” (hands that clap when shaken) and sometimes we use the clapper to celebrate success. I also use puppets and other little fun things to show success. The puppet looks at students’ work and affirms good work. A student who is putting good effort into handwriting may be allowed to write with “Super Pencil.” We may celebrate success by putting stickers on charts or adding a sticker to a page of good work.

A colleague said she wrote students’ names on popsicle sticks and each day she would go through that stack of sticks, taking a stick, talking to that student or commenting to them, or in some way giving them attention. She put that stick aside then so she knew which students had been recognized, and she would continue pulling sticks from her beginning stack.

Teachers could write students’ names on cards and go through a stack of cards to make sure each child was noticed. Names could be checked off a checklist to remember who was spoken to that day. These are ways to help us remember each child so no one is left out.

I think it is important to make sure the child who has been corrected or disciplined later receives a positive comment or affirmation. I also try to make sure that a child who gave an incorrect answer in class has a chance to succeed after that. I was in communication with Taylor’s parents over behavior support, and now I am purposely watching for a positive behavior or learning so I can send an encouraging email to his parents.

I do believe there is a time for failure and we can learn from that, and not being recognized can help us with humility. I am sharing my experience as a reminder for us to encourage students and make sure all children feel needed and celebrated. I felt bad when one of my students said, “I can’t do anything right!” as her eyes filled with tears. I want to support each one and help them find success, and celebrate success.

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CONTRIBUTOR: Arlene Birt

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