A Dad Went Viral For Saying Schools Should Ditch Perfect Attendance Awards
“How are we rewarding students for something that’s beyond their control?”
I remember sitting cross-legged on my junior high gym’s floor as three or four of my peers walked on stage and accepted the “Perfect Attendance” award. That meant that in the 200 something days in the school year, they had not missed one second of school, not taken one sick day, not had their mom sign them out to go to the doctor and grab some McDonald’s after.
While I had a “good for you, but not for me,” kind of position on this award, there were several of my classmates who found this moment of recognition something to aspire to — no matter the cost.
Looking back, I actually feel pretty sad for them. Just like adults, kids need breaks too. That shouldn’t be sacrificed for an embossed certificate that will collect dust in their room a year from now.
A dad on TikTok slammed “Perfect Attendance” awards that are still being given out in schools, claiming that this kind of rhetoric contributes to kids’ burnout. In the now viral video, this dad, AKA @speechprof, stitched a video speaking about perfect attendance.
Jay, the original TikToker, captioned his video with, “Perfect Attendance awards in elementary school were an early deposit of the idea that taking time off is ‘bad.’”
In the stitch, @speechprof explains that his son recently won a reading award. He says, “And at that ceremony they were giving out perfect attendance awards and I was like, ‘How are we still doing these?’”
“After what we just went through and are still going through,” he adds, “how are we rewarding students for something that’s beyond their control?”
With a growing mental health crisis for kids continuing to rise with a glaring lack of resources to help said kids and (still) dealing with a global pandemic, should we really be rewarding kids for coming to school when they’re desperately in need of a break? Or when they could endanger the health of others?
The father continues, “In the current state of the world we live in, should we really be encouraging parents to send their sick kids to school? Is that the message we should be sending?”
He then suggests that society change the narrative to the opposite: kids who take time off, listen to their minds and bodies, and stay home when sick to protect others should be the ones receiving praise and recognition at school assemblies.
“Or, should we be rewarding the students that are responsible citizens and staying home when they’re ill instead of coming to school and getting their classmates sick?” he suggests.
TikTok users flooded the dad’s comment section on the viral video that now has over 300k views, mostly backing up his claims.
“They should rename them ‘My adults send me to school sick’ if they insist on doing them,” one user wrote.
Another user noted that while yes, some parents do send their kids to school sick, sometimes it’s not really up to the parent.
“A bigger problem is the parents who don’t have the privilege of taking time off themselves to take care of sick kids. We need to fix that first,” they wrote.
And that’s a totally fair point. There’s a definite lack of support for working parents in America.
The US is one of the few nations among Western industrialized countries that has a huge lack in adequate, federal family policies in four key areas: paid leave; affordable, quality childcare; fair work schedules; and living wages.
However, it seems that the reason for these “perfect attendance” awards has nothing to do with the parents (or the students). @SpeechProf believes that the overall reason why kids are rewarded for attendance comes down to funding. And he’s not totally wrong.
A 2021 Washington Post article noted that in order for schools to receive higher ratings and secure enrollment and funding, school districts must incentivize attendance. And while there is definitely nothing wrong with encouraging kids to get an education and go to school, where should the encouragement turn into that of “stay home, you’re not feeling well.”?
He concludes the video, “What’s the lesson that we’re teaching children? That they should feel guilty for getting sick. That they are somehow less than. They are not worthy of an award simply because they caught a cold.”
A Harvard-led research study actually showed evidence that these kind of awards might not even work and are actually “demotivating” to kids.
The lead researcher found, “There are a lot of educational practices that we assume work because they seem like common sense. But we found that this really ubiquitous practice of giving students awards actually does not work,” she said.
It seems like a couple days off from school to rest, reset, get healthy, or even just take a mental health day could do way more for kids than any sort of award ever could.