Ever see a teacher adorned in formalwear exit a limousine, walk a red carpet, and receive a fancy, silver award? Yes, much like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the Oscars. If not, you missed the Bammy Awards.
This posh, strangely-named, ceremony attempts to honor educators, much like the Academy and Golden Globe awards recognize actors.
Unless you work for Bam Radio or are a connected educator (that is, you’re on Twitter), or you are Bill Nye or a Muppet, it’s unlikely that you have any clue about the Bammys. (Maybe you thought Major League Baseball created a new trophy to hand to its sluggers.)
Before I continue, let me offer this disclaimer: many of my friends have won or been nominated for Bammy Awards, and this year’s hosts, Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo, are friends and colleagues. These people are fine educators and deserve recognition.
Still, I just can’t come to terms with the direction of the Bammys.
The Bammy Awards, by their producers’ own account, have very good intentions:
The Bammy Awards is a cross-discipline honor that identifies and acknowledges the extraordinary work being done across the entire education field every day — from teachers, principals and superintendents, to school nurses, support staff, advocates, researchers, school custodians, early childhood specialists, education journalists, parents and students. The Bammy Awards were created to help reverse the negative national narrative that dominates the education field.
Doesn’t this sound like a wonderful thing?
Of course it does, but before you get weepy and scurry off to book your tickets to next year’s ceremony, take a moment to remove all the layers to this onion.
5 things I hate about the Bammy Awards
1 — The name is ridiculous
If you’re attempting to acknowledge the “extraordinary work” of educators, why not call your award something with which people can identify? Hmm., maybe something like, The Teacher.
2 — The Bammy Awards are too commercial
See the picture above? When you think of teachers, do Bill Nye, Alan November, and Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster come to mind? Why not promote your award with a picture of an in-the-trenches teacher–someone who deals with real kids, face to face every single day? Might it be that not many of these teachers actually awards? More on this in the 3rd thing that troubles me.
3 — The Bammy Awards exclude most educators
Most people have never heard of the Bammys? The reason is because the creators of this Oscars impersonator are all about promoting only the most connected educators. Don’t get me wrong, I love connected Ed; I’ve written widely about it. But many of the best educators in the world aren’t authors, consultants, or app developers (Adobe and Padlet won Bammy Awards); most aren’t listening to podcasts, reading Edutopia, or tweeting about teaching and learning. Many of the world’s best teachers are in the background, doing the heavy lifting in relative anonymity.
As I noted in my earlier disclaimer, the Bammys recognize some amazing educators; however, when you peruse the list of the 2015 Bammy Award winners, you find that most are authors, bloggers, podcasters, product developers, or popular Twitter users. Where are honorees like the late Hazel Haley, who taught for 69 years, and Megan Silberberger, who helped disarm a gunman who was shooting at kids in a school cafeteria in Washington?
How about someone like Becky Corr, who taught both of my children and hundreds like them to love reading, while working ridiculously long hours, just so she could meet the needs of every single student? Why doesn’t Bammy recognize these amazing educators?
4 — The Bammy Awards paint the wrong picture of education
While a national awards show could shine a light on all of the great things educators do, the Bammys attempt to glamorize education. There might be plenty of glitz for Bill Nye and the Cookie Monster, but there isn’t too much glamorous about working long hours in awful environments, doing everything possible to engage hungry, addicted, sad, poor, angry children, while trying to make them love learning. The world needs to know about these teachers, their students, and their stories. Highlighting a few authors, developers, and TV stars shows the world a profession that only bureaucrats and Time Magazine see.
5 — The Bammy Awards are too competitive
There’s nothing wrong with Oprah’s agent telling the world that she deserves to win an Oscar. If Julia Roberts’ representatives say their client should win instead, more power to them. These are celebrities, and TV and movie awards are indeed a competition. When educators compete for votes, it undermines the work. When 5th graders are clapping because their teacher hoists the hardware at the Bammys, other students are hissing that their teacher got a raw deal. Do we really want classrooms filled with students shouting, “My principal is better, because he won a Bammy Award”?
I see potential for the Bammy Awards to make a meaningful impact on education. I’m not sure how this will happen, but I think that changing the things I hate is a good start.