Newsfeed and Instagram accounts are overflowing with them.
So are smartphone camera rolls.
And everywhere we look, we see hearts of moms and dads bursting with pride. BURSTING!
The world right now is full of humble, heartfelt, and gracious posts and pics (and thoughts and feelings) about all the very smart children, tweens, or teenagers roaming among us.
It must be because it’s May, which means it’s officially “Achievement Olympics” season.
End of the School Year Awards Ceremony
Just about every day now is seems there is a different honors assembly, induction ceremony, awards luncheon, or recognition banquet, where adults eagerly gather around glazed eyed students, paying homage to them in a variety of staged ways, all to showcase their diligent hard work and dedication to everything they touch.
There are academic ones and sports ones. There are band ones and drama ones. There are STEM distinctions and art adulations. There are plenty of very esteemed events for plenty of very esteemed students, where badges, cords, certificates, sashes, and pins will be placed and given and wrapped and pinned across the chests of some very deserving students.
And we will be witness to all of these deferences to dedicated kids whether we want to or not, because many of us will actually have students being honored so we’ll be there anyway- camera ready. And if not, we’re sure to see the accolades shared later on Facebook, in school newsletters, church bulletins, and neighborhood newspapers, and finally in the glowing announcements made by our friends and family anywhere and everywhere we consume information.
The “Achievement Olympics” brings with it so much to be proud of, and yet for many parents (and kids) it also brings so much to worry about. For parents, there is worry about their kids who will never receive any type of achievement, and what that may mean for them and their futures.
Will my kid be able to find work? Will he be accepted into any type of post high school education, or is that solely reserved for high achievers? Where will he fit in among that crowd? Or will he ever? Can someone tell my average kid he doesn’t need academic achievements to be somebody?
For the kids who go through K-12 education riding the back of the average or below average horse, and who will sit as audience members for hundreds of these award ceremonies, what do we tell them when they wonder and worry about things like,
Am I capable of future success even if I’m not up there? Can kids like me achieve happiness and meaning? Will I be able to work next to the high achievers? Can someone tell me average is not a bad thing?
I have sat at many an academic awards ceremony watching my kids on stage receive recognition for things that quite honestly, most of the time came easy for them. But I’ve also sat at many academic awards ceremonies with one of my kids absent from the stage and instead sitting next to me, where together we starred up at a stage full of promise, a future of promise that didn’t include him.
Will my average kid turn out fine? Will yours? Does average even have value anymore in our society?
Of course they will, and of course it does, but that doesn’t mean kids are immune to feeling less than, or need someone to recognize them for the promising future they can and will have regardless of GPA.
Do I think kids should be honored for a D+? Nope. Do I think we should be giving every average kid some special average certificate just so they don’t feel left out? No way. But here’s what I wish and want my very average kid to know, and here is what I wish someone somewhere along the way would say to the average kids:
What to Say to “Average Kids”
Average kids write books that get rejected over and over again. Then they win Pulitzers.
Average kids start businesses that go bankrupt. Average kids also start businesses they later sell for millions.
Average kids go to four year colleges and fail out. Average kids also leave college with their Ph.D.
Average kids get high school diplomas and technical/vocational degrees. They fix planes, roads, bad haircuts, bad plumbing, and you can bet they fix many of your bad days.
Average kids make food, serve food, drive the trucks that deliver food, grow food, and even own the restaurants.
Average kids join the army. Some leave as privates. Some leave as colonels.
Average kids draw blood, draw blueprints, and also draw the same inferences and conclusions about all the same things high achievers do. And sometimes average kids realize this before the award winners do.
Where was that award for street smarts again?
Average kids grow up and buy cars and homes. Look around you, that’s an average kid’s name on that work truck, and that building, and that school, and see that street over there? It’s named after an average kid.
Do average kids grow up to be average adults? Yes, sometimes they do. But average adults? Well, it turns out they end up doing plenty of very amazing (and non-average) things. Things that require honor, character, goodness and pride, and all things that adulthood gives no award ceremony for.
But that’s ok, because average kids? They don’t need an award to do amazing things. They just need to be told they can.
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