Awards Day…a conflicting day

Each quarter, the school has an award’s day presentation. I prep Joseph (and next year William) that you may not get any award. But Mama and Daddy still are proud of you and your efforts.  And he usually does get some award every quarter. Shelby typically does as well. The awards range from honor roll to behavioral awards to awards for exhibiting various character traits. And then the resource teachers (art, media, technology, music and physical education) give out awards for students who did exemplary in their class.

This final nine-weeks Joseph got the all-around citizenship award (only offered at the year’s end and the highest non-academic award a student can receive), an award for perfect attendance and the gifted gator award (an honor-roll type award for kindergarten and first graders as they do not get graded on the A-F scale). Shelby received the Presidential Outstanding Performance in Academics award, a bus award (f0r good behavior on the bus), and outstanding performance in Technology class. I go in with low expectations as aside from the honor roll type awards, students are typically not allowed to repeat in an award category. So, for example, in the first quarter, Joseph got the awards for outstanding performance in art and music so he did not receive those again in this academic year.

I sat through three awards ceremonies on Wednesday. One for 1st and 2nd graders. One for third and fourth graders. And kindergarten graduation. They occurred in that order and since I have a 2nd grader and kindergartener, I sat through the ceremony in the middle that I didn’t have a kid in. It didn’t make sense to go home and come back. Anyway, during that middle ceremony, I sat with my neighbor who has a fourth grader. Her son had many awards through the year. So as award after award was given and he did not get any of them, he became more and more upset. Finally, he did get some awards. He received an award for his participation in an all-county chorus and another for performing in the county’s annual arts performance celebration. And he got the Presidential Outstanding Performance in Academics award, which was very demanding for fourth and fifth graders.

But seeing that and then listening to grandparents sitting behind me in the kindergarten graduation saying how all these awards were terrible and didn’t represent any kind of exceptional performance (this was mostly during the “gifted gator” which many kids qualified for based on their good grades; 0f course their granddaughter won several awards and they stood up, hooted and whistled each time they heard her name; I’m sure she was much more qualified for those awards than any other child–sarcasm, people) got me thinking. If a child isn’t qualified for any award, none at all, should they really have to sit there and watch many of their peers get awards? Should the award ceremony be only for kids actually getting awards, perhaps occurring outside of school? And why are we giving awards for honor roll? Maybe for all As but so many kids get As and Bs should they all really get called out?

After the last awards ceremony, another mom texted me because her son didn’t make A-B honor roll. It turns out the requirements for each grade were different than what she though and her son had one C. We texted back and forth for a while. Me most listening, her venting. And finally, we got back around to “why do we, as parents, get so worked up about our kids’ awards?” Our society tells us that only the best matters but not everyone can be the best. And we should award mediocrity, except when we do so no one is bummed out. She and I finally decided that these awards are nothing compared to the award we receive of eternal life. We also agreed that these awards were something we needed to place significantly less emphasis on this aspect of education and life with our kids.

I guess I always felt like an outsider to many parents because I don’t bust my kids’ chops about being the best and being super competitive. Actually, with my kids, we have to tone down some of the competitive nature because they have it in spades naturally. I think most people thought I just didn’t want them to have ambition. Nothing is further from the truth. The truth is, the awards we get here on Earth, we can’t take with us. And A-B honor roll is not a criteria for eternal life.  If we are living Christ centered lives, we will be able to be excited for the good and not worry if we are overlooked or ignored or just not quite at the level of a bunch of others. So, maybe I’m not that conflicted after all.