Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Danger Season

Well, here we are at the end of another school year.
Awards are being awarded. Kids are auditioning for placement in bands, orchestras, choirs and gifted and talented classes. There are cheers and tears as the results are posted.

Parents are settling in for poignant "end of the year" videos at graduations and banquets and counting up how many times THEIR child appears or, more tragically, does NOT appear at all.
There are some kids who just seem to have a gift for getting themselves into photos but it is really so sad when someone has been in band or theater or 5th grade all year and there is no record of them in the end of year slide show.

Many deserving are receiving plaques for "most improved" or "Best [insert activity here]" and there is great rejoicing or another round of teeth gnashing by students (and the people who love them) who are not recognized. My very wise principal used to tell her teachers, "Don't be stingy with a piece of paper."

Teachers are perceived as brilliant nurturers of talent or sad excuses for educators who never knew [insert name of student here] was in the room.

Librarians are not immune from the danger of "awards season."

As I reflect on this time of year, I recall one year when I totally and utterly, blew it at rewards ceremony time. One of the year end recognitions at my campus was for reading the Texas Bluebonnet books for that year. I made up little certificates and the kids got to come up at the big award ceremony to receive them.

One year, I left the names of two kids off the list.
I don't know how it happened.
I was in a rush, as usual, and somehow, their names became invisible as I checked and double checked the list.

What I did not know, was that one of the kids had read ALL twenty books because their GRANDMOTHER had PURCHASED all twenty, at OUR book fair, with the expectation that they would watch their grandchild march up in front of the entire grade level to receive their well deserved applause.

I did not read the child's name.

Oh, I tried to make amends the next day on the morning announcements, but it was not the same.

I apologized over and over again. I felt terrible. just terrible.
My library aide had to keep sharp objects away from me for the remaining weeks of the school year.
The memory of that child still haunts me this time of year. I can imagine the family's excitement that finally they would see their child receive their due...and I forgot them.

Not long after that I began having trouble with my left knee. I have always attributed it to the time I fell off my bike in college. Now, that I reflect, I daresay, it was that grandmother jabbing pins into an effigy of me as retribution.

You do the best you can but this time of year is really a danger-filled season for teachers.


Mary Lee said...

Not to mention making sure the final comments on the report cards are just right...

Camille said...

Oh, yes, the teachers have the challenge of that final report card. That was my one consolation. I did not have to negotiate the "promotion" rubric.

Don Tate II said...

You know, I never thought about it from the standpoint of the teacher or librarian, it must be difficult. And yes awful if someone is left off. But I'm sure you do your best.
My son is the type of kid who gets all the awards, and my daughter was the type of kid who was most likely to flunk.

Anonymous said...

I feel for you. I'd find the fear of accidentally doing something like this completely paralyzing. I mean, OF COURSE, you're going to make a mistake every now and again--there are so many kids to keep track of--but, yeesh, it feels so terrible to disappoint a kid. Best of luck with this year's awards. :)

Anonymous said...

Last year, I was criticized for not giving "participation" awards to kids who didn't even finish a PTA program I chaired. The year before, I was misheard over a poor PA system and vilified by a group of parents who thought I left out their kids. (I spent the whole following summer in a deep depression because "I ruined their 5th grade graduation ceremony.") This year? I think I'll skip the awards ceremony altogether. I feel for you. Good luck!

Camille said...

I've never known a teacher who intentionally set out to ruin a kid's life. I hope the family of the child I forgot have moved on and left the tragedy behind them. I relive it every year (and every time my knee hurts.)

Mental multivitamin said...


What a story. I have been nearly every character -- the forgotten child, the parent of the forgotten child (who did everything to ensure that the child would, in fact, get his due), and the librarian (in my case, teacher, who neglected to mention a deserving student.


I feel for you, your knee, and the family.

Best regards,