In about a week, my son will be graduating high school. This is a huge deal for him, and as his mother who stayed awake a lot of nights wondering if this would ever happen, it’s also a huge deal for me.
He has struggled in school since he entered the 6th grade. In 9th grade, he really struggled and almost got expelled after getting suspended twice for smoking pot on school grounds. During his sophomore year, it seemed like he was giving up. I got email after email from his teachers telling me he just wasn’t doing the work.
I was on him for what seemed like every second of every day. It wasn’t doing any good. There were times when I did too much for him because I was so afraid he was going to fail. I thought he was unmotivated and didn’t really care.
Then, I realized that wasn’t helping him at all, and I wasn’t setting my son up to succeed and try. I was setting him up to believe his mother would swoop in and take care of things for him if he didn’t want to do it.
One day I came home from the grocery store and he was fiddling with his bike instead of doing his homework. That was the last straw; I looked at him and said, “I can’t do this anymore. If you want to repeat the 10th grade, I guess that’s what we will do.”
I explained I loved him and supported him, but this was something he was going to have to take care of on his own.
I thought about it over and over, wondering what I could have done differently. He was staying after school with a tutor who told me that in order to get a passing grade, my son had to put in more effort than a lot of kids. Along the way, he got frustrated, felt like it was too much work, and wanted to spend his afternoons after school doing something else other than more school work.
I thought about that and the fact when I try and do something that’s really hard and almost seems impossible, how long do I stick with it? Not long, that’s for sure.
For many kids, my son included, sitting still is torturous. They want to be moving, they want to be hands-on.
My son doesn’t learn by sitting in a chair or watching a teacher write something on a board; he needs to be working with his hands, putting things together, and being creative. That isn’t always how it happened in a classroom setting.
There are so many kids out there like my son. School work is not easy. It doesn’t simply come naturally to most of them. It’s a daily struggle. How long would you stick with something that was a really difficult day in and day out?
During this time of awards, recognition, honor roll, and graduations, it’s especially important to remember that these kids either worked just as hard, or harder, as some of the award-winners.
Of course, you should be recognized for graduating at the top of your class, or receiving a math award. I’m not saying we shouldn’t honor those kids.
But what we need to be doing, too, is telling the average kids, the ones who struggled to get through history class, the ones who have to put in three times the effort because spelling doesn’t come naturally to them, that they have done a good job.
Say “Congratulations” to a child who finishes the school year, regardless of their ranking or if they’ve gotten any awards.
Clap extra loud for those who don’t graduate with honors, because chances are there were many days they struggled and doubted themselves.
My son was able to pull it together and he will be getting his diploma. But it was a long, tough road for him. He completed something he didn’t want to do, because there were so many times his teachers may as well have been talking in a foreign language he didn’t understand.
Not all kids learn the same. Not all kids will excel at anything school-related. Not all kids will feel worthy because of low test scores, grades, and the fact they didn’t get an award.
As parents, we can change that. So, don’t forget about them. Tell them they did a great job. Tell them it’s a huge accomplishment to get through month after month of school. Tell them you are proud of them without asking how their grades were or if they studied hard.
Make them feel like they are enough, just as they are — because they totally are.