In my first year teaching I noticed there were certain students in my classes I was overlooking. These students were not the ones who were getting A’s and B’s and they were not the students that were struggling to pass. They were those students who found themselves ‘in between’.
In school our strongest students get a ton of positive reinforcement: A’s on assignment, tests, and report cards. We even go so far as to create special lists of distinction for them like the Honour Roll or Principal’s List. Once a year at my school everyone heads down to the gym for the academic awards where these students receive additional praise. These students were getting their fair share of ‘pats on the back’.
My weakest students, while not perhaps getting a ton of positive reinforcement, were getting attention nonetheless. These students were receiving extra help from the School Based Resource Team (SBRT), I was coming in early or staying late with them, and in class I was making them a priority.
The students in between were getting left out. They weren’t getting rewarded with high grades and they weren’t struggling enough to earn themselves extra assistance. Yet many of these students were doing everything I asked of them: they were coming to my tutorials at the crack of dawn when they needed extra help, they were completing their assignments, they were using their classroom time wisely…
This was breaking my heart. I hated seeing students doing everything right but not get the outcomes they desired. So I decided to come up with a way to reward them….the Mathlete Hall of Fame.
Each month I select a student to my classroom’s Mathlete Hall of Fame. To earn a spot on the list some of the following criteria need to be met:
- show an excellent work ethic
- show improvement in your mathematical ability
- help others around you
- attend class on time
- complete all of your assignments
- participate well in classroom activities
I wanted to reward students for doing good things in my class regardless of their mark, high or low or somewhere in between. Each month the Mathlete gets their name on my Hall of Fame, I offer to write them a reference letter if they ever need one, and I buy them lunch at the end of the year. (I think we need Mathlete shirts…) It’s not a big deal, just a little something to tell them I am noticing them.