The Golden Apple Award – Fourth Grade Style
Some of you may be familiar with the Golden Apple Award. For those who are not, it is, quite simply, an award given to a teacher who has been nominated for demonstrating excellence in their field. Many different states participate in the Golden Apple Award program, Illinois being one of them. Additionally, there is the Golden Apple Scholars program to recognise students. There is also a category for administrators.
Some of you also may be familiar with my growing collection of apple-themed objects in my classroom. It started with a few token items from a friend who had retired and thought I’d like to have something to decorate my room. It has since grown, almost exclusively via gifts from students and their families, but also the occasional apple-related knick-knack I’ve found and just had to buy. One of these items it a brass apple-shaped bell.
I used to have a golden-coloured wire mesh apple as well and I used it as a way to acknowledge students in my classroom from day to day for being awesome in different ways. My goal was to make sure each student received the apple at least once. The apple broke apart last year and I didn’t think about using the bell because, well, it is a bell. It is noisy and can easily be distracting.
But this year I decided to start using the brass apple bell, which I cheerfully refer to as the golden apple even though it does not have a speck of gold in it. (That I know of.) This was a natural continuation of my desire to make sure that students know that I am noticing what they do, which was some fairly common feedback I got from their October reflections. I started by recongising a student who always goes out of his way to help classmates, especially ones who are hurt or unable to do something on their own. Then I recognised a student for being a good friend to someone else, making her feel welcome and comfortable in our class. I try to find different reasons to give recognition. Today I gave the apple to a student who has consistently shown perseverance and quality work. (This grew out of a class discussion about which is better, speed or accuracy. Every student agreed that accuracy is far more important than speed. I agreed, too.)
Up to now, I have been the one who determines who gets the apple each day. But I really want my students to feel like they have ownership of this recognition. I also want them to be comfortable publicly sharing what they have noticed about their peers and giving praise. So, starting tomorrow, students will nominate each other for the award and then whoever had it the day before will select a new student to receive the apple.
Now, I’m sure you are wondering if there are any perks to having the golden apple. Well, other than having a cool apple that normally stays on Mr. Valencic’s desk on your own desk for a day, not really. There are no specific privileges that come with it and if students play with the apple, I just take it away. But it is a nice visual reminder that someone has noticed something positive and that’s an internal reward that I hope each of my students will get to feel many times in their lifetimes. It is not quite a standing ovation, but it is a step in that direction.