Student of the Month (SOM) is a relatively new thing at my school. It began last school year and it’s ran by the Publications class here at school. Every department is suppose to award one student per month, although junior and senior high school awards are kept separate. There’s a lot I like about SOM: it puts the emphasis on academics (when so often sports are stressed here), it exuberates what our students are doing well, and quite frankly I just kind of feel like every school is supposed to do it. However, SOM can also be a heated time in our school. Some teachers struggle to nominate just one student (one teacher nominated his whole class one month, I kid you not!), while others struggle to ensure that their candidate wins (it’s hard for departments of two and three to share this responsibility). I’m so fortunate that my colleague and I work well together to award the Spanish SOM each month.
Last month I was walking down the hallway with one of my Spanish 3 students, Javier*, and he said that he knew Carolina* would win the award. I said, “Oh?” Javier proceeded to tell me how she was my smartest Spanish student and then he told me that Carolina had never won Spanish SOM before, or from any other class as a matter of fact. My heart broke in that moment because she was not going to win this month’s award. Carolina is indeed smart and is often correct when I ask her questions, but she can get lost in the crowd due to her quiet nature. In that moment I realized that Javier was right – Carolina would have been an excellent candidate that I had never considered before.
As I am also the Freshman Speech Coach, I was talking with Blanca*’s dad about her joining the team at Parent-Teacher Conferences. I talked about how it looks good on college applications in addition to her Spanish SOM award. She proceeded to tell me that she had never won the previous year. My jaw dropped. I could have sworn she had won at least once! Her vocabulary is phenomenal and she writes so eloquently in Spanish. I’m still scratching my head over how this was possible!
These recent moments have me thinking: how could I allow more student voice in the Spanish SOM nominations to ensure more students are considered? This month I decided to make a generic nomination form using Google Forms and send it out to students. Students are not eligible to nominate themselves, they may only nominate one student, they cannot nominate someone who has already won this year, and they have to nominate someone in their class period (so that it doesn’t just become friends nominating friends). I then ask students to comment on the nominated student’s attitude and Spanish performance because those are the two things I really consider when I give this award. My last question is if the nominator is willing to read the award in front of the school at the SOM assembly. I write my awards in Spanish, but my principal (who reads the awards) does not speak Spanish. He tries, but students groan in the gym when he gets to a Spanish award. Once students get to class I have another student read it aloud and it sounds so much better! So why not show off what my students are able to do in Spanish in front of the whole school!? I will then look through the nominations in order to make my decision.
Here are some initial reflections:
- Students were really excited that they got to somewhat be in control of who will SOM. I think this will enhance their class communities – especially for the students who make strong enough arguments for their candidate.
- I could tie in some kind of reward for the class that makes the most convincing case for their candidates. This would continue to build community, and make it more of a “class of the award” inside my class walls. The candidates could be their tributes that represent the entire community.
- A handful students have multiple mentions, but there really is already quite a diverse list of candidates. It’s so exciting to see students saying positive things about their peers!
- Some people will simply nominate their friends. It’s already happened, but I will keep that in mind when I make my final selection.
- I think I need to refine my questions in order to elicit more specific examples. I think students need to be trained to this, and I haven’t yet.
- The form is currently all in English because I didn’t want students to turn directly to Google Translate in fear. They’re capable, but they can doubt themselves. I would eventually love to use an all-Spanish form next semester.
I would love to hear how Student of the Month works at your school. How do you get your students involved in the process? How do you make it special for your winners?
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
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