Here & there: Your kid’s ‘average’ scholastic achievement doesn’t define their existence

Stock image, St. George News

FEATURE — Graduation ceremonies are like dog years. They feel seven times longer than they actually are. Or is it just me?

Maybe it’s simply the number of graduations: preschool, kindergarten, elementary, junior high, high school and college.

It’s exhausting.

And on top of that, some of these things are three or four hours long.

That’s like a whole “Avengers: Endgame” movie – and then some! Which is ridiculous because that movie is so long the internet is full of recommendations for the best spots to take bathroom breaks. That’s breaks with an “s.”

Wait, how did we start talking about the Avengers? Let’s get back on topic. Oh, yeah, graduations.

On Wednesday, my middle boy graduated from elementary school. Before the official certificates and before the slide show littered with baby pictures cuter than cat videos, each of the teachers presented “most likely” awards to their entire class.

You know, things like “most likely to be a boss,” “most likely to be a millionaire before the age of 25” and “most likely to develop an app.”

My son was awarded “most likely to find buried treasure.” I wasn’t really sure what that meant. And neither did the rest of the family. We floated the idea that maybe it was supposed to infer Indiana Jones-like qualities: smart, resourceful and adventurous.

I thought it fit. He is those things.

But my boy shot down all of that. “I’m pretty sure it just means (my teacher) doesn’t really know what to say about me.”

And he might be right. My boy isn’t the teacher’s favorite, and he’s not the highest achieving kid in the class. He is a hard-working and very average student.

We had him tested a few months ago because he felt overwhelmed with the school workload and like there was something wrong with his brain. What we found out is that he is bright (we already knew that) but that he has some processing speed issues; he has trouble converting his thoughts onto paper quickly.

And that just doesn’t conform to what’s expected in the classroom.

Plus, he occasionally forgets his homework. And sometimes he spells so crazy even spellcheck can’t help him. He stares out the window during class (probably more than he should), and he talks to his neighbors (definitely more than he should).

But he also shows up every day. He participates fully. And he does every single book report, even though he absolutely hates each and every one of them.

He is also curious and deep and will stand up for anyone he thinks is being treated unfairly. Friend or foe.

But those things are harder to see in a class of 34, and they don’t really get you awards.

Last week, a girlfriend reached out with dread about an award ceremony at her son’s school. He, like my son, isn’t the highest-achieving student, even though he works extremely hard. And her son is genuinely one of the nicest human beings I have ever met. Plus, he’s a genius on the piano.

In advance of that ceremony, she texted me: “this morning I will sit in an end of year assembly for two hours. They will call 80% of the names in my child’s class multiple times. Over and over. And my child’s name will not be called. And he will feel shame. And I will cry inside for him. But I’m still going.”

I felt her pain and told her so. But what I really wish I’d told her is this:

It’s OK. Really, it is.

Your darling, talented and thoughtful son is an average student.

My darling, talented and thoughtful son is an average student. He knows it. I know it. And his teacher and her “most likely to” award knows it.

But here’s the kicker – it doesn’t really matter. School – and achievements there – aren’t the only thing in life. Even if we’ve built a system that says differently.

Being yourself is the real prize, the true achievement. Individual, creative, kind, hard-working and average you.

If you don’t believe me, just listen to the New York Times. According to “Let’s Hear it for the Average Kids,” an op-ed published earlier this week, “life is not a contest, and the world is not an arena. Just by being here, unique among all others, offering contributions that no one else can give, you have already won the one prize that matters most.”

Unless, of course, you actually find buried treasure. That would be pretty cool. And very Indiana Jones-like. Even if your elementary teacher accidentally predicted it because she didn’t know what to say about your “average” school self.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: katdayton@gmail.com | news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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