On Halloween I took my daughter Juliet who is 8 years old to a Brooklyn Nets game. That’s right, my daughter just started playing basketball and she was so excited to go to her first professional game that she gave up trick-or-treating to do it. That’s dedication!
We arrived about 45 minutes before the game. Juliet wore a Brooklyn Nets hoodie that we bought specifically for the occasion. Standing just inside the entrance, marveling at all the sights and sounds of the arena, we were approached by a member of the Nets staff who asked Juliet, “Would you like to be part of the “High Five Line” and stand on the court with the players during the national anthem?“ You don’t you have to guess what her response was. Juliet dashed off with the nice Nets lady so fast I thought I would never see my daughter again.
Juliet and 11 other fans had the opportunity to be on the court and high five the players when they came out for warm-ups. Then, she stood in front of one of the players during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. The player, Ed Davis, even tapped her on the shoulder and gave her a high-five at the conclusion of the anthem.
It would be impossible to overstate Juliet’s excitement about the Nets, basketball, and her awesome night out with her dad. She is a lifelong Nets fan now for sure! So grateful to the Brooklyn Nets for going to
all the trouble to make it special for Juliet.
But was it really a lot of trouble?
When you think about it, this was actually quite easy for the Nets to do. Every game, the players run onto the court for warm ups and stand for the national anthem. It’s a fairly straightforward process to grab 12 fans and invite them to join them when this happens. They gave all the fans a T-shirt but they were created by a sponsor and every shirt was XXX Large so they didn’t have to worry if they fit each participant, Juliet was able to put it on over her hoodie.
It’s wasn’t complicated, but the Nets were able to create this special moment for a group of fans because they are in charge, it’s their building, their court, their team. They have the power to make the event momentous for the fans.
Our school does something similar to this called Personal Best Awards.
One of the guiding principles of our school culture is “always do your personal best”. We tell kids, you don’t need to be better than somebody else, strive to be better today than you were yesterday. To focus attention on social emotional literacy and on personal development we have monthly themes and we use the CASEL SEL Competencies to guide our work in building students’ personal capacity. As part of an initiative to promote this, we have something called “Personal Best Awards”. Four times a year teachers select students to be recognized for doing their personal best. There’s a small ceremony after school, students are given a tee shirt and a certificate with the reason they were nominated. Families are invited to attend. There’s cake ( BJ’s will make a cake with the school logo on it for you) and the middle school jazz ensemble performs as families enter and at “intermission”. As it takes place on a Friday immediately after the school day, many parents can leave work early and most of the staff attends as well.
Certificates, tee shirts, music, cake… nothing particularly fancy. Personal Best Award Ceremonies are special occasions for the kids and for their families but they’re not difficult or expensive for us to plan. This small, simple event sends a powerful message about what we value as a school and it is a special memory for the students who are honored. Principals and teachers can create singular moments for kids everyday. Like the Brooklyn Nets, these are our schools, classrooms, hallways, gyms, and cafeterias. We are in charge of these settings. We can do extraordinary things to create lifelong fans of learning and of our schools.
What are some ways that you make it special for kids in your setting? How do you generate memorable moments that create lifelong fans for your school and classroom.