The school year is winding down. The kids still have three weeks of school left, but North’s school’s end-of-year awards ceremony was on Wednesday, so we’ve entered the home stretch.
The way these events work is that if your child is being honored you get a letter in the mail, but you don’t find out what which award it is until you arrive. At Noah’s middle school you didn’t find out until they called your name and you came to the stage. At North’s middle school the names—nine pages of them—are printed in the program. Having experienced both, I can say there are advantages to each system.
The element of surprise keeps it interesting, but it can be stressful, too. A little background– in seventh grade Noah got an award for perfect attendance, which would have been nice except he didn’t have perfect attendance that year. It was a letdown, as he didn’t get any other awards. At the eighth grade ceremony, I was nervous the whole time, and relieved when he got the award for maintaining a 3.5 or higher GPA for every semester of middle school because that is a bona fide achievement.
So we were able to scan the program when we arrived at the high school cafeteria where the ceremony was being held. We’d guessed the honor would either be North’s honorable mention on the National Spanish Exam, or being nominated for the Tri-M Music honor society, or perhaps both. It was the former, which was near the end of the long program, so we settled in to watch kids file up onto the stage and to clap for them.
I said later if I’d designed the program I’d have called the first section “Do-Gooders” and the second section “Smarty Pants” because it started off with community and school service awards, awards for character traits, club awards, etc. and then moved on to academic awards.
The first awards presented were for the eighth graders’ community projects. It was interesting to hear what kind of projects kids do for this graduation requirement—one kid instituted a composting system in the cafeteria, a group collected feminine hygiene products and bras for women in homeless shelters, etc. Then we found out which of the sixth and seventh graders were “Balanced,” “Caring,” “Knowledgeable,” and so on, who’d been active in various clubs (including Rainbow Alliance, which caused North to clap enthusiastically), and which middle schoolers had already completed their 75 hours of community service required for high school graduation. Three of them were sixth-graders, which meant they’d done it in just a year.
Then it was time for awards for Music, English, Math, and Science. It was nice to see North’s friend Edwin win the sixth-grade Science Scholar award and a girl who used to be in Scouts with North win an award for both Math and English. Finally, we got to World Languages. Kids in the French immersion program who’d scored a platinum, gold, silver, bronze or honorable mention on a national French test were first on the program, but to our surprise, they weren’t called to the stage by name, just asked to stand in their seats en masse. And it was the same with the Spanish immersion students.
This was a disappointment for North and for us. I’d been looking forward to seeing not just North but their friends Norma and Claire go up to the stage and get their Spanish exam awards, as I’ve known them since the kids were all in elementary school together. And it would have been nice to see North’s new friend Xavier collect his bronze award for the French exam, too. To make matters worse, kids in non-immersion language classes were called to the stage for awards such as most improved. We weren’t alone in being surprised and dismayed. I’m not on the school listserv, but Beth told me the next day there were a lot of irate immersion parents complaining there. I understand that it’s a very long program and they wanted to save time, but this seemed a clumsy way to do it. It might have been better to leave the French and Spanish exam awards off the program all together rather than to treat one group of kids differently than all the rest.
Beth had asked me earlier if we could cut out after North got their award and go for frozen yogurt. I’d been mulling it over, thinking it might be rude to leave in the middle, but I wasn’t in the mood to see any more kids walk up on stage, so we did leave. North took the time to find their friend Giulia, who’d won a gold award on the Spanish exam, to give her a congratulatory hug.
Shortly after we got to Sweet Frog, a boy we know (seventh-grade Spanish immersion Outstanding Linguist) and his mom and older brother arrived and we had a nice talk with them. I used to see his mom or dad every day at the bus stop when our kids (first the older pair, then the younger ones) were in elementary school, but we rarely see each other now, so I was glad about that.
When they came by our table, Sam’s mom Barb said to North, “What did you get?”
“Cotton candy,” North said, probably figuring she couldn’t see the frozen yogurt under the copious neon-colored gummy products they had piled on it.
Barb explained she meant what award, while acknowledging the frozen yogurt might be “the more important thing.”
And North, who had been indignant a little while earlier, didn’t seem too upset anymore, so maybe it was.