An hour and a half later I was left with a numb ass, Danny’s knees crackling like Pop Rocks, my mother-in-law wishing she brought her book to read, and a growing need for carbs to help me navigate through the feels of what I just sat through while on a flimsy folding chair.
Yes, I know there are bigger things to tackle in the world (the list of what needs to be cleaned up or obliterated gets longer each day). But can we one day rally together in having the schools in our country retire the perfect attendance award and all varieties of it (1st quarter, 2nd quarter, since K-5, since 1st grade, since birth, etc.)??
This award celebrates kids who refused to miss school - even while sick - and in turn got others like Alex sick (he missed a few more days than zero this year).
For some of these students, their "perseverance" to attend school sick simply helped with the breeding of viruses and bugs to share with all the other kids. Along with all the Moms, Dads, Grandparents, etc. who may have had to take time off from work (paid or unpaid) to recuperate. Such a little thing has some nasty, far reaching tentacles.
I can’t help but think of different scenarios like:
A kid missed out on this “award” in order to see specialists that were only available during school hours.
A kid missed out on this "award" because the family's only car broke down and they don't have a backup BMW to get them to school. (And yes, there are school buses but in some places it takes a few days to get added to the route.)
A kid missed out on this “award” because their parents saved, and saved, and saved, and saved for their first family vacation that landed during a week of school.
Perhaps a kid who was sick and/or behind on their doctor checkups is being pushed and weighed down by a parent’s expectation of perfection in regards to everything for school. So they show up - exhausted while unintentionally sharing viruses with their friends.
Or perhaps a kid who was sick had to attend school because a parent couldn't miss any work due to the fear of being reprimanded for taking time off.
What got me fired up to the point of writing out my thoughts, was what the principal said during her presentation of the award. She directed the adults to take a good look at the kids on stage who received this award (there were dozens of them). Then she went into detail on how we need to remember these students when hiring for jobs in the near future. (Apparently, perfect attendance makes or breaks a great employee.)
To exalt these children as potentially key new hires was dangerous.
It fosters the acceptance of having teens/adults attempt to live/work from a place of overwhelm due to the expectation of perfection.
This mindset poured into the absorbent minds of middle schoolers will continue a dangerous cycle many of the adults in the audience live from each day. A cycle of burned out and exhausted humans doing mediocre work at best because corporate leadership places a high value on showing up to the job through one point of view - attendance at all costs.
What our educators don't realize is how perpetuating this "value" at such a young age creates adults who accomplish less work.
I wanted to look into the eyes of all 200 kids sitting on the floor of that cafeteria/auditorium and tell them not to listen to the exaltation of perfection. I wanted to look them all in the eye to say perfection isn’t required - showing up for your education/career is equally as important as showing up for your health and your family. And you will not show up perfect for any of it, but the attempt counts just a much if not more than the achievement of reaching the goal.
It's over-the-top awards day moments like this that feed into the unhealthy mindset of many of our nation's employers and their ideas around sick/leave time.
Showing up shouldn't only be counted as days being seen hanging around the office dragging ass or hauling ass (depending on how much coffee/cold pizza is consumed by 9am), but as to the work attempted/accomplished.
Awards for showing up with your best effort is something I can get behind - and I did.
After sitting through many awards being called out (and becoming slightly saddened over the shift of how award ceremonies will look for Alex from now on) we finally got to the one Alex would receive. He received a “giving your best effort no matter the struggle” award for social studies. You will find me celebrating that award the whole damn Summer while holding much appreciation for a few educators recognizing tenacity in some small way. Alex may not make perfect scores or has to work harder/longer on assignments, but one thing that beautiful human being has always had is tenacity.
We need more tenacity awards like this in our schools because it’s the kind of showing up that will change the world, birth innovation/creativity, raise consciousness, and pulverize shame - all without sharing nasty viruses none of us have time to fight off.