SOL: Gold and Silver Students

The last few days of school are approaching and with them come the awards ceremonies. Every year I am asked to recognize the shining stars in our fifth grade. The academics, the leaders, the good citizens, the hard workers. Those who do school well.

I left school this afternoon, the list prepared, in time to attend my daughter’s senior awards ceremony. All told nearly 200 graduating seniors stood before us. All had astounding GPAs and golden opportunities ahead. These children worked hard, studied for the tests, wrote the essays and got to school on time.

I recognized names. These were gold and silver award winners in elementary school. Those who do school well get the awards, the scholarships, the acceptance letters from colleges, the bright futures.

I don’t deny the value of their hard work or their excellence. They do the right thing the right way.  We look at them and say what a great group of kids. We’re proud and hopeful.

But tonight, I worry. What about those who don’t shine gold or silver?
What needs to be done?
What should I have done?

If only
I had been tougher;
inspired them;
engaged them ;
trained them;
convinced them that hard work matters.

All of those if only’s. This always gets me.

What is the source of the desire to work hard?
How is it acquired, developed, maintained?
Can it be taught?

These questions propel me into pre-summer thinking.

How and why do I work hard?
When do I give up?
What does it take to get me to come back and try again?

When I was young, I worked hard to please. My parents. My teachers. As I grew, that changed. Working hard became a way to get to the world, a world away from the people I started out wanting to please.

I found places I excelled and areas I foundered in. No surprise, I avoided the places of inadequacy and ran toward all the areas I felt I could do. Success bred success. And I developed a belief that I just had to work hard and look long enough and I’d find my gold and silver. This has led to an inexhaustible desire to work hard.

What happens when performance today doesn’t equal gold or silver?
I wonder, how can we find the gold and silver in our students?
Are we showing them pathways to find it?
What can I do?

These questions propel me into summer learning.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Tuesday Slice of Life. And thanks to the generosity and wisdom of Slicers who meet here every week. Read more slices here.