Who gives out a “MOST LIKELY TO ‘NOT PAY ATTENTION’” award to a student? Apparently, two teachers in Georgia did at Memorial Middle School in Conyers–and honestly, that has to be one of the most poorly thought out ideas I’ve heard a teacher implementing.
And I was a former teacher!
Nicole Edwards’ 14-year-old daughter brought the award home recently, and Edwards was infuriated, telling the Washington Post:
“I feel like it was very derogatory. I feel like it was humiliating. My first thought was, I wanted to know how my child felt when she walked across that stage and got that award. I became furious.”
Edwards also noted that her daughter had been reprimanded for not paying close enough attention before, which makes it worse:
“Why call me to discipline her, but yet you turn around and give her an award for it? It doesn’t make sense.”
— Lori A Wilson (@LoriWilsonWSB) May 19, 2017
It does seem like the school realizes the teachers made a huge mistake, as District Superintendent Richard Autry told the Rockdale Citizen on Friday that the two teachers’ contracts were not renewed for next year–and rightly so. Yes, silly awards are a time-honored teaching tradition, but gently having a laugh with your students and really mocking them are totally different things.
Actively making fun of a student in general, for any reason, is not acceptable, but it’s even more unethical when it’s making fun of a student’s special needs or disability. That crosses the line into bullying–and that’s not something to teach our kids to emulate either.
Edwards ended up telling WSB-TV that she appreciated the superintendent’s decision to let go of the teachers who gave her daughter the award:
“My goal is to make sure that this horrible event never happens to another kid again. As a parent, it is my job to protect my child from being humiliated and bullied, especially when the bully is her teacher. Making fun of any disability is not acceptable.”
Any parent who has a kid with ADHD can tell you that it’s not something a child can just “grow out of” or “deal with.” It’s a disorder that requires treatment and attention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 11% of children ages 4 and 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD in 2011. The website states:
“It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.”
Also, it’s a teacher’s job to make sure a student feels safe (so they can feel comfortable learning and making mistakes), and to celebrate the student’s successes (so they have the confidence to keep trying). Most teachers spend so much time and energy doing this, and hopefully this was an exception.
We should all remember this in general, as parents and partners and friends: Let’s be kinder.