COMMENTARY | The annual giving out of end-of-the-year class awards is one I looked forward to as a teacher. I enjoyed coming up with creative ways to honor student achievements. My students loved the ceremonial pomp and circumstance. It required so very little effort on my part to make students feel special.
I assumed it was understood that classroom awards should be positive. Apparently for "Ms. Plowman," the Arizona third-grade teacher who gave Cassandra Garcia a "Catastrophe Award," it's not.
The Tucson, Ariz., Desert Springs Academy teacher (presumably a licensed professional) also doesn't understand that awards shouldn't be snarky little digs at students. ABC News Blogs says that on the child's pretty little certificate under the words "You're Tops!" the teacher wrote in "for most excuses for not having homework."
The teacher signed, dated and even added a kitschy like smiley face. Ouch. That's a weirdly hurtful juxtaposition with what's supposed to be a pat on the back. Sounds more like a mock award from an office booze bash.
Cassandra's mom Christina Valdez was rightly upset. Mom said she didn't know her daughter wasn't turning in homework or that she had been enrolled in an after-school homework program. Mom seems to have dropped the ball a little on her end, but schools should keep parents apprised of these things.
None of that is any excuse for the teacher's crass, juvenile joke. Awards are supposed to reward, not shame. It makes me sad and angry to think of poor little Cassandra watching the other children getting their warm fuzzies as she gets a smart-aleck cold slap. Mom says the class laughed at the child. That makes my blood boil.
Worse yet, when mom complained, she said the principal called it a joke. Some joke. I doubt Cassandra was laughing. Adults should know that jokes made at others' expense aren't funny. They're cruel. Schools decry student bullying but allow teachers to do it?
Even if the child never turned her homework in the teacher should have been professional enough to find out why. Even if Cassandra had every excuse in the book the teacher should have been mature enough not to make a jest out of it.
I think teacher deserves the "Tacky Award" for most pathetic excuses for classroom failure.