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The Prize Box

Posted by on in School Culture
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If I had been looking the other direction I would have missed it. That would have been a shame. But I was fortunate enough to witness it. So I considered myself lucky.

The timer was getting ready to go off and for a moment it seemed uncertain if he was going to be able to clean up in time. It wouldn't have been a big deal if he hadn't. I'm sure his teacher would have simply given him another minute or two. But she didn't need to. Because his friend came over and helped him.

While that was a nice moment, it wasn't the one that stood out. What happened next was something that I rarely see with children and don't see enough of with adults. After the young man received help from his classmate he pointed it out to his teacher. And he suggested that his friend get a chance to pick out of the prize box.

Those of us that have worked with, or even had, five year olds know how rare this is. To suggest that someone else get recognition and/or a prize without expecting anything themselves. It's almost unheard of in the world of five year olds. It is not a character flaw. It's just that five year olds are still at the age where their primary concern is themselves.

Five year olds can be kind. Five year olds can be loving. And five year olds can be cute. Rarely do five year olds suggest giving something to a peer without also expecting something as well.

But this young man did.

Starr Sackstein recently wrote a piece about sharing "Aha" moments and today I felt as if this was the type of moment to which she was referring. It certainly was for me.

Moments like these don't "just happen." They must be cultivated. I don't know if what happened was the result of the family-like environment created by the teacher or if it was the result of wonderful parenting. Most likely it was a combination of both. Either way it resulted in something magical.

Just last week our principal at Sandy Hill Elementary decided it was time that we start recognizing each other.We spend much time recognizing our students. And we should. But adults also need to be recognized. And recognize. So a magnificent bulletin board was created called "Our Staff is one in a Minion." When a staff member sees a colleague perform a nice deed they are to post it up on the bulletin board. At the end of each week, the posts come down and one lucky person wins a prize. So far it has been a big success.


The similarities between the bulletin board and what I observed today weren't coincidental. I feel very fortunate to work in a building where students and staff alike are looking for the good in each other without expecting anything in return. It makes our days together much brighter. And it makes me smile.


The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.


Kahil Gibran

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Jon is currently the assistant principal in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is his seventh year serving as an assistant principal at the elementary level. Prior to becoming an administrator he served as a Math Coach and an elementary school teacher. During his ten years as a classroom teacher he taught first, second, fourth and fifth grades. During his sixth year teaching he earned Nationally Board Certification, which he held for ten years. For seven years he ran a Young Gentleman's Club that was aimed at helping young men reach their full potential.  

Jon received a B.A. from Furman University while majoring in Philosophy. He later went on to earn his B.S from Salisbury University while majoring in Elementary Education. Jon was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to student teach in New Zealand. He eventually received his M.A. degree from Salisbury University in Public School Administration.

Jon lives in Cambridge, Maryland with his amazing wife and two awesome children.

  • Guest
    Danny Thursday, 25 February 2016

    Great piece Jon.
    I tried to select all the stars but it didn't let me :(
    I would like to create a bulletin board at my office ..great idea..

  • Guest
    Sandy Woolfolk Friday, 26 February 2016

    Nice story, Jon. At Cambridge South Dorchester High, we have a Viking Ship, an actual replica of the real thing. At every staff meeting, it gets passed to another deserving staff member for going above and beyond the call of duty. It's a great honor to receive this ship. I love your Principal's bulletin board idea!

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