school awards

My amazing daughter graduated from eighth grade on Tuesday.  Part of the ceremony was the presentation of awards, and there were plenty.  I do not begrudge any of the recipients of those awards.  I’m absolutely sure those students worked very hard to receive those recognitions.  But at the same time I felt a twinge of anger and jealousy for my daughter.

She has struggled mightily over the past two years.  She has battled fierce demons that were gnawing away at her insides.  Depression threatened to take her down and it became a success for her to get out of bed and walk down the halls of her school that had become like running a gauntlet of rich, popular girls and boys who viewed her as different and weird and a target.  Seventh grade sucked – big time.  Eighth grade was better, thanks to therapy, medication and a life-saving out of school activity.  But grades were the absolute last thing we were thinking about.  We just wanted her to SURVIVE.

So, as I sat in the auditorium, listening to the principal (a man who really was enormously helpful to us) rattling off the names of those who won the math awards, social studies awards, art awards, athletic awards, good citizen award etc… I couldn’t help but think they should also have the following:

“I survived middle school!” award

“You may hate me, but I made it anyway!” award

“I’m stronger than you people give me credit for” award

“Despite the odds being against me I FOUGHT and I’m still here” award

I don’t know of any school that would actually have awards like those, mostly because the kids that would win them don’t want to advertize their struggles and pain.  My daughter is one of those kids – she especially doesn’t want to advertize her pain to those in the school who contributed to her life being so miserable.  But for every kid on that stage Tuesday night who didn’t get an award announced over the public address system, for every kid who was just happy to make it to that moment, I say



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3 thoughts on “school awards

  1. Stress Bubbles June 21, 2014 at 10:29 am Reply

    Lisa, I totally and completely agree with you. I have fought with many a principal over the graduation awards issue. An award given only for academic achievement is only part of ‘knowing’ a student – it says nothing about character. Often, sadly, these “winners” can also be bullies, cheat on tests and get away with it, and/or enjoy demeaning those less fortunate than they. This only shows how broken and how uncreative the school system is. It rewards academic achievement. Any person with half a brain knows this: there is far more to school than mere achievement. There are indeed the stories of those who have overcome great odds or who show a tenacity and resilience that is unreal. That they are always forgotten come graduation time is a crime.

    • lisaleben June 21, 2014 at 10:55 am Reply

      Thanks for commenting. Like I said, I don’t begrudge any of those students their academic achievements. I’m sure some of them worked EXTREMELY hard for their grades. I know many kids face tremendous pressure for grades and suffer from serious anxiety because of it. I feel for them. But I also know that some of the “smart” kids also “play” the teachers, and that it’s easy for certain bullies to operate because they’re such “great” students. It’s very frustrating. I spent a lot of time with my daughter before and after the ceremony “unpacking” all that.

  2. Old School/New School Mom June 21, 2014 at 7:06 pm Reply

    I love your version of middle school awards!

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