Recognizing and Rewarding Your Student Council

Disclaimer: This article was adapted from Harvard Human Resources.

Why Are Rewards Important?

We all appreciate when others recognize our contributions and achievements. Student Council recognition helps reinforce the behaviors that help your student council strive for excellence and gives a boost that has a ripple effect that reaches far beyond the recipient.

As student leaders, our recognition lets others know that we care about creating an environment where individuals feel appreciated for their contributions and their accomplishments.  Through recognition, we also build a culture that supports praise.

How to Think About Rewards 

Rewards can cost little or even nothing, but they can mean a great deal to the person being recognized.  When deserved, rewards should be used frequently since they are easy to give and reinforce desired behaviors.

Ideas for Recognizing Student Council Members

Here are some low- or no-cost ways to recognize student council members.

  • Recognize the member at a meeting.
  • Send a card to the person you wish to recognize.
  • Give your employee a small token of recognition, like a school SWAG item or free tickets to the upcoming dance.
  • Send an email of appreciation to your principal or superintendent (with a copy to the student).
  • Host an appreciative lunch with the person.
  • Write an article about the person to share in the district newsletter.

A few rules when offering recognition:

  1. Be genuine.  Give it your full attention and be sincere.
  2. Be timely.  Try to recognize the individual as soon as you can after the contribution or accomplishment. This makes the link between the behavior and the reward clear.
  3. Be specific.  While a “thank you” is always welcome, your impact is greater if you describe the accomplishment and the value that it created. (For example, saying “Thank you, Mike, for putting away all the chairs after the assembly. Thanks to your great work, I was able to focus on sweeping the gym floor.”).
  4. Give the action the “recognition” it deserves.  Treat the recognition as an event by not mixing in other business. If the recognition takes place during a meeting, make sure to carve out enough time at the meeting to focus on the individual being honored.
  5. Keep it right-sized.  Make sure the amount and type of recognition is appropriate for the behavior recognized.
  6. Personalize it if you can.  Recognize that different people are motivated by different things, and appreciate different things.  Some people appreciate being recognized publicly; others may become embarrassed. One person might enjoy a gift certificate to a restaurant; another might prefer movie tickets. 

A final note.

Keep a small “recognition box” on hand.  It can include small gift bags, a few movie tickets, note cards, etc. This will help you to recognize and honor an achievement as soon as possible.