What do we do with students who don’t earn a celebration?

Wow, here we are. Reflection number four of seven for this topic of celebrations in learning. I’ll was traveling for the past few days so unfortunately I wasn’t  able to attend last week’s #mschat and thankfully it was postponed for holiday celebrations… fancy that!

As with the week before, by this point in the chat it became obvious that I was getting sidetracked into a side conversation with someone about one (or more) of the previous questions. I didn’t not respond to this one and as I’m reflecting on the responses now, I’m a little surprised. Surprised because I feel like I misread the question or that I’m almost completely alone in my thinking about it.

I mentioned in a previous post that I sometimes feel that participants in these chats often try to sound profound or witty and that makes me feel like I’m out of my element or even just out on a limb. One thing I noticed with this particular question is that many (if not most) of the teachers tried to go for the aspirational response that was inclusive and celebrated all learning that takes place in class.


YOU need to find something that is worthy of celebration. Anything.


That can’t be. Kids learn all the time, even if it’s not what we “sanction” them to learn. Celebrate all learning


Every S has something worth celebrating – sometimes it’s coming to class every day. Find it, cheer it, encourage more.


celebrate the uncelebrated, and they will give us more reasons to celebrate


I agree that it’s our professional duty & commitment to find & help create victories we can celebrate in each kid.

While I agree with this aspirational “find all the little moments’ to celebrate, the reality is that this is not the only kind of celebration that happens in a classroom.  It struck me as a little absurd to see teachers aspiring towards perfection in their approach to celebrating learning in the classroom. I’m not saying that any of these teachers actually think they are perfect and as I’ve become more involved in twitter chats I’ve come to respect all their opinions and perspectives on things. I do feel, however, that we sometimes get caught up in the echo chamber of it all… because the way I read the question later on, alone, it was much different. I read between the lines of the question to get at a practical reality of combining celebrating learning and discipline/management in our classrooms. I read it like this:

What do we do when there is a specific, planned celebration that two kids in class did not earn?

Maybe is was a class challenge that two students were obstinate or obstructive towards completing? Maybe there was a culmination celebration of a project (a performance) that, for whatever reason, two kids were not allowed to participate in? What then? What do you do? What is the expectation for those students during the time that the others are celebrating? What are the repercussions of their exclusion from this ‘celebration’ when they are brought back into the fold of class? Is there a way that they can be included without the teacher losing respect from other students? All of these new questions (and some more) are swirling through my head right now and I don’t have a good clear answer for any of them. In years past I would have simply said that it was the student’s own poor choice that led them to this point but now as I have matured as an educator I realize that it is not always so cut-and-dry or black-and-white. There are often competing shades of gray to why a student acts out or fails to live up to their half of a bargain.

At least I wasn’t alone in my thoughts…


always torn on Ss that don’t earn it. Makes it easier when you have given so many chances & Ss try to help others too.

I acknowledge that it’s hard for me to figure out what to do as well and I know that I’ve made some terrible choices in the past in regards to students who did not merit a celebration. I’ve been the enabler that caved in and allowed a student to participate. I’ve been the asshole who stood their ground and made a student cry (I still feel awful about it, too). Throughout all of my choices I have come to realize that there is no perfect solution. I do try to find little moments to give a student some praise for the things they did well like @nyrangerfan42 does:

some Ss go the entire day/week without nothing but criticism. be the Tt that gives her praise!

That sentiment rings true for me but in this case I think the more practical advice that anyone in the chat gave came from @sstorm01:

i recognize the Ss in my class by letting them know I care

Sometimes just letting them know that even though they might not be a participant in this specific celebration, it is not because we don’t like them or that we don’t care about them. It is because we care so much.

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