Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Honor in education: More than just scholastic achievement

Many schools have Honor Rolls for students who achieve a certain grade average.

Philosophically, I do not have any problems recognizing students for their achievements, but I do think about the term “honor” and how it is used in that context.

Recently, I participated in National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony for a group of middle school students.  As part of that ceremony, I was asked to make a few comments.  In preparing to do so, I drew some inspiration from our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge, who saidCalvin_Coolidge

“No person was ever honored for what he received.  Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”

This quote really got me to think about the role honor plays (or is ignored) in schools.

Undoubtedly, there are numerous teachers, students, parents, and administrators who have spent this past school year giving of themselves for no other reason than to make someone else’s day better.  As a matter of fact, I often ask students two basic questions:

  1. What have you done today to make yourself a better student?
  2. What have you done today to make someone else better?

Question one focuses the student on their own independence in learning.  Question two is designed to remind the student that they are also part of a community of learners who need each other in order to grow.  It is question two that separates the good students from the great ones.

The same can be said of teachers and administrators.

  1. What have you done this year to make yourself a better educator?
  2. What have you done to help someone else become a better educator?

In the middle of rewarding those who deserve recognition for their achievements, let us not forget to honor those for what they gave.

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