It is once again time for the Bammies.
The Bammy Awards is a cross-discipline honor that identifies and acknowledges the extraordinary work being done across the entire education field every day– from teachers, principals and superintendents, to school nurses, support staff, advocates, researchers, school custodians, early childhood specialists, education journalists, parents and students. The Bammy Awards were created to help reverse the negative national narrative that dominates the education field.
As I watched them unfold last year I was undecided about whether I should be supportive of a teacher award show, or rail against it. Many people wrote angry posts, a few in support–or maybe that is just what I saw.
As nominations open up this year I have been stalking the lists. Many folks who wrote against the Bammy Awards called it simply a popularity contest. I have not heard of almost all of the people who have been nominated, but most are involved in blogging or social media in some way. Maybe you have to be popular in social media to know who is popular? The ones I do recognize aren’t popular because they tweet a lot, it is because they share a lot, and they are authentic when they do.
Last week there was a meeting at my daughter’s elementary school in which they brought in state officials to introduce common core standards. They used language so nuanced that you could not say they were lying, but the ideas they were presenting had the backing of Billions of federal, corporate, and Bill Gates dollars and it was hard to present an alternative. There were handouts made with Gates billions from the PTO, and misguided quotes about PISA scores and crazy statistics about how happy teachers in CT were. An individual teacher simply does not have the clout…or the $$$ for lobbyists to fight back. As I sat there listening to the “rigor” my daughters school will embrace, I was wishing that I had the $5+billion dollars that they have spent on common core to push a different agenda of play based early childhood education, project based learning in all schools, and maybe give some to those South Carolina teachers who really haven’t had a raise in like eight years. I wish I had some major backers that could help me in my own district to introduce project based learning into our school, and inject inquiry into our social studies classes.
I have checked out many of the Bammy Nominees. I wonder how many are like me. How many feel as though they are an island. As I checked out their blogs I could not help but be impressed and I did not get the feeling that their classes were filled with workbooks and work being done solely for a grade, work done solely to meet the standards. It seems as all of them are not getting nominated for doing what they are supposed to be doing, but because each day they make a difference in someone’s life by doing an extraordinary job of doing all the little things right. Sure some may be popular, but my guess is that they all change kids lives. Apparently popularity is just one side effect of sharing lots of great ideas and making people think.
I would take a guess that not a single person nominated really cares about the award. I would also guess that most would say that it is a bit embarrassing. That ‘s too bad. I wonder if it is because of the folks in social media who have knocked down awards like the Bammies as nothing more than popularity contests, the same people who ironically can do that because of their popularity, and the same people who can’t celebrate a teacher being honored, but will spend all night tweeting about the hit by a player being paid $15 million per year, or celebrate a 20 year old kid because they threw a ball through a hoop.
There are some nominated by the committee whose write up sounds like the first three bullet points on their resume, but look past those. Look at all the rest. If they can achieve some legitimacy through this event as it grows, I feel as though maybe I can acquire some of that mojo so that the next time in a meeting I suggest we utilize project based learning and inquiry maybe someone listens. The reality is that awards equal power. Not power inside the classroom, but outside of it. I am sure many of the nominees feel like I do–we make a huge difference in our own four walls, but when we suggest to others outside of our four walls that there is a different way of doing things we are snubbed. I re-read a post from Josh Stumpenhorst today in which he writes: “I used to think I could be a superhero and was responsible for saving the kids in my classroom. Now I realize I can’t do it alone and my responsibility reaches far beyond the walls of my classroom.” It has taken me decades to realize that. And maybe, just maybe, a celebration of teachers who are doing some awesome things in their classrooms that have more to do than just meeting test scores is a first step to getting these folks some extra power to reach beyond their classroom’s walls. It certainly can’t hurt.
In a comment on Pernille Ripp’s blog someone asked how can we “measure who is better?” I would hope that it is never about who is better, it’s simply about someone who cares about kids, and shares how they do that. Will that measured in some degree by who is popular? I suppose so, but so are teacher-of-the-year awards, Presidential elections, and pretty much every award given out that recognizes anyone for anything. Let’s face it, any teacher who is not on twitter probably has never heard of the Bammy Awards, and right there that eliminates more than 99% of the teachers I know.
Another comment on Pernille’s blog said “I’ll suggest that the daily successes of what you do in class with your kids is infinitely more important and of the highest value possible.” I settled for that for 23 years. And as I valued the successes in my class, the world outside of my class turned into a test driven standardized world. I was able to do battle each year to keep the corporate reform movement and all their standardized testing vices away from my kids until this year. Now I am starting to feel like I have a responsibility beyond my walls, and I bet the other nominees do as well.
After taking four or five days to complete this post, I think I will come down on the side of “for” the awards. If just a single teacher being honored can have their voice amplified in their home district because of them I think it will be worth it.
By the way, I am a nominee this year. My last eight posts have been tweeted out nine times and have one comment…must be because I am so popular 🙂
I would like to place in an edit here after what the Bammies have just done. I have read that Bob Wise will be hosting them. If I knew that ahead of time, I would not have written a post supporting them.