Tuesday, May 11, 2010


This is a repeat from last year. Partly because it is so appropriate this time of year and partly because I have writer's block.


The month of May in Glenview (and in many school districts I suspect) means lots and lots of award ceremonies for all our brilliant and talented children. Of course, in a world where kids can't attend a birthday party without getting a custom-made T-shirt, we would not expect them to finish up their school year without making sure each and every one of the little darlings is given an award, a plaque, a certificate and a big round of applause just for being you!

This means that as a parent you will get a letter or a phone call from the school inviting you to attend an award ceremony because your son or daughter has received an award for some great scholastic or athletic achievement at school.

At least that's what you think the first time you get one of those letters or calls. You get the video camera fired up and see if you can talk a grandparent or spouse or a child into going with you for the big event.

Imagine your disappointment (not to mention your mother's irritation) when you get there and find out the award is for "Good Effort In French" which is an award given to just about any kid who attended the class on a semi-regular basis. Heh heh you smile apologetically at your mom for keeping her from her Pilates class as your brilliant progeny traipses across the multi-purpose room along with a dozen or so other slackers while Mademoiselle Jones hands him a "special certificate" she just printed out on her computer and says with a big smile, "Tres bien!"

I am only exaggerating a little here. To be fair, they also give out awards to children who really deserve the recognition for the nearly herculean efforts they put into the school year and the extra-curricular activities they participate in. The problem is that when you are invited to attend an award ceremony you have NO idea if your kid is going to get a real award or a bogus award. So you go, and since you've been duped before you don't make a big deal about it or even tell your spouse because you don't want him to take time off to watch your kid get an award for being above average in social studies. And THAT will be the time your kid actually wins the school award for all-around kid greatness that goes to only one kid and the newspaper will be there and they'll want a picture of your entire family and they'll wonder how such a great kid could come from such an apathetic family.

Well, that has never happened to me but it nearly happened to my friend Kelly who, a few years back, sent her husband off to work with reassurances that their son TJ would be getting some meaningless award only to find out that he was about to set a school record for receiving the most (real) awards. Thank goodness for cell-phones. We fondly remember that event as the "TJ Awards Ceremony" around here.

Of course it helps if you can crack the code. Last year I was going to the meaningless award ceremony (You're only invited to this one if your kid is going to win several meaningless awards, I have at least figured that much out by now) only to see the parents of the superstars leaving the building. "Hey, where are you all going?" I asked naively. TJ's mom explained gently, "Oh,they have the school-wide awards first. They just finished up," she said, trying to hide behind her back the stash of gold medals and award statues her son had just won. She's a modest woman.

WTF? They have the real awards first then break up into classes for the meaningless awards and I didn't even KNOW that?

All of this came back to me yesterday when I got a letter inviting me to the Science Awards Ceremony at the High School. This is the first year I have someone in high school so now I have to try to decode the ceremony system there too. I was quite suspect of the invitation. For one thing Atticus is barely carrying a B+ in that class. Can they really award that? Maybe he found a cure for a disease or something. So I asked him about it when he got home.

"Oh that. It's nothing. I think the teacher has to give out a certain number of awards and our class is so lame he had to choose me. I wouldn't come unless you're incredibly bored."

"So you knew you were getting it?"

"Yeah. The teacher had me address the envelope to you."

Wow. That is an honor. Here, send this letter to your mom so she'll know we're giving you this prestigious award. (author update--went to the ceremony--it was a ruse to get the younger kids to see the amazing things the older kids are doing in science--a sort of science PR event if you will)

So I'm proposing an award system code that is just for the parents. The invitation to the award ceremony could have a three-tier code system like our oh-so-helpful homeland security threat system:

Code Blue: This is a perfunctory award given to your kid because he or she has not physically harmed anyone in this class and did show up, fully dressed almost every day of the school year. Come if you can squeeze it in between the grocery trip and the bill-paying.

Code Yellow: This is an actual award only the top 15% of the class will be given. Nifty certificates with their names printed on them will be given! You may want to attend this and even make an attempt to photograph the event on your cell-phone.

Code Orange (also known as the TJ code): This is a REAL award. Your son or daughter not only got all A's but also headed up a project to implement an easy-to-use recycling system for the cafeteria that involves the help of the special needs kids AND led the basketball team to a state-wide victory (another author update...Grace actually won one of these last year and I was able to attend the early award ceremony for high achievers...and I was restrained and only said "In your face" once to Kelly who was there with her usual armload of awards) Bring your family and your camera and your video camera with tripod.

Happy awards season. I hope your children get many awards, real and otherwise!

1 comment:

  1. Haha, it surely is one of your better articles, I realize re-reading it.