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Pasco teachers use songs and silliness to praise students' achievement

TRINITY

“Samantha Frost?"

Assistant principal Nora Light looked around the sixth-period reading class Monday for the Mitchell High School freshman, who tentatively raised her hand.

"We're here for you," Light said.

Frost smiled sheepishly.

"What'd I do?" she asked.

"You did something good," answered guidance counselor Jason Dobrow, grinning broadly.

Frost's teacher, Carol Johnson, had selected the girl from all her classes as most deserving of recognition for her performance in class. That meant a certificate, a green balloon and an entourage of teachers and students singing (off-key) lyrics specially written to the tune of Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe.

"Your teacher told us/ That you're amazing/ So here's a balloon/ You're good grades crazy."

Some classmates laughed. Others recorded the silliness on their phones. At the end, they applauded.

Light came up with the lighthearted recognition as a way to make sure students get attention for finding success. Teachers can choose any student in their classes for any reason for the monthly award.

Some picked kids who consistently do stellar work. Some chose teens for finally starting to do their homework. Some selected students for their creativity, others for their tenacity.

"We leave it to the autonomy of the teachers to decide which students ought to be recognized," Light said.

The key, she explained, is that they receive positive feedback for their work.

"We tend to find that, across the board, our high-achieving students seem to get a lot of recognition. Our low-achieving students have a lot of programs designed to recognize them," Light said. "Our middle-of-the-road kids seem to fall by the wayside."

This initiative aims to give everyone an equal opportunity to shine. Plus, Dobrow said, it shows the value in having a little fun and "cutting loose" even amid the daily focus on academics.

Luis Labayen had two teachers select him for the honor in November. He said he was a little embarrassed by the attention — especially after one teacher put a sombrero on him and had him stand on a chair while everyone sang.

But he appreciated that his teachers noticed his hard work to make good grades and do his best on assignments.

"It definitely did make me feel more confident in myself," said Labayen, who considers himself an introvert and has found high school somewhat intimidating. "I definitely think it's a great motivation, congratulating some of us for keeping it up."

Kelvine Moyers grinned as the group approached her Monday during her fifth-period biology class, interrupting a lesson on cellular respiration with a balloon and a song.

"This class is really hard," Moyers said. "It makes me feel good to know my hard work pays off. … It's nice to have a balloon once in a while."

Frost said she had been having a particularly rough day before the group showed up in her class.

"I had been stressing out about my grades," she said afterward, noting that midterms were fast approaching. "This made me feel 10 times better."

Light said she hoped that students would continue to feel that way in the months to come, looking forward to the next round of awards with amusement and anticipation, not dread.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at jsolochek@tampabay.com.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Mitchell High School freshman Kelvine Moyers' first name was misspelled in a story in the Dec. 18 edition of the Pasco Times.

Pasco teachers use songs and silliness to praise students' achievement 12/17/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 20, 2013 10:33am]

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