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Thursday, December 13, 2007
It's An Honor...
...or is it?

Some high school somewhere is making news right now because they've decided that they're not going to publish the Honor Roll of students in the newspaper anymore. It's not that they're doing away with it completely, but that they're not going to acknowledge the students in the local paper who've "made the grade", so to speak. Other high schools (and middle schools) over the years have done away with the honor system, citing that it's embarrassing for the underachievers.

I think that's taking it a little too far, don't you think? The underachievers aren't on the Honor lists because they didn't work hard enough, right? Well...

I have some personal experience with this as a student and as a parent. As a student, I was a high achiever. I always made the school honor roll and the National Honor Society lists, although I don't think that they were ever published in the newspaper. I don't remember seeing the lists in the paper, but then I never really read it other than the comics, so who knows. I had some great friends who weren't in my honors classes with me. Some of them were summer school fodder. They usually made fun of some of the kids who *were* on the list, but they never said anything to me other than a truly heartfelt "Congratulations" because they knew I worked hard for it and it was something that was important for me to do. Not necessarily because I wanted it that badly, but because it was expected of me.

The recognition was nice, but it was only a list on a window that stayed up for a few days.

Now as a parent, I have two kids in middle school. The 6th grader, A, made the honor roll for all 3 trimesters of her 5th grade career, and just got a 3.95 for her first trimester in 6th grade. She actually looked at her report card and groaned at the A- she got that kept her from getting a 4.0. I rolled my eyes and told her it was fine. 3.95 is excellent (this coming from a person who graduated from high school with a 4.5 GPA, thank you AP and Honors classes).

She worked really hard and earned her place on that list. At her school they publish the list on the school announcements board, and have a little ceremony for parents to attend where they call the students up, give them their certificate, and sometimes serve doughnuts at the end (this last time they didn't). A is rather proud of herself and is currently striving to get that 4.0.

Meanwhile B is starting her 5th grade career at this same school with the same teacher that A had. B has always had to work a little harder to accomplish certain things academically, but isn't a lightweight by any means. That said, she completed the trimester with 4 A's and 3 B+'s. But it wasn't enough to make the honor roll - she just missed it by a fraction of a point, and I think she's kind of disappointed by it. We're encouraging her to work harder if she wants to make that list, and are willing to help her study and do what it takes to bring her grades up - which weren't bad to begin with.

She didn't make the list, her sister did, but it's just a list on a board that stays up for a few days. She did work hard and I think it hurts a little that she didn't make it. By no means, however, is she an underachiever because of it. She'd be an underachiever if she didn't care and got a 2.0. Or if she walked away with A's and didn't work hard for them at all - oh yes, if it all came that easy and she took it for granted that it did, I would consider that underachieving as well.

Yes, it can be an ego blow if you don't make the list. One semester there was a clerical error and my name wasn't at the bottom of the list (it was alphabetical and with a last name that started with a Z, apparently I somehow didn't fit on the one page that was typed out). I thought it was a joke when someone told me about it in chemistry class. Then I saw one of my non-honors buddies and he asked me if I'd slipped or something because I wasn't there. That's when I went to check and found out I wasn't there. But my grades were good enough... it got fixed, but that half day that I wasn't there was a real blow to the ego. Especially when I knew I'd worked hard enough for it.

I know that B worked hard. I know that she has to work harder than her sister to make the grade. I think she knows this too, and she wants her name on that honor roll list. She wants those grades to stay high enough to be able to run track in the springtime. She wants that recognition that she did well. I don't think that it's bad for her that she sees other names on the list and hers isn't there. I think it allows her the opportunity to congratulate her fellow students (and her sister) and have something to strive for. I think the kids that didn't work hard and didn't make the list don't care, and I think that the kids that did work hard and didn't make the list might try harder now if it's that important to them. Or to their parents - oh yes, I know that parents are often the ones pushing their children to do better, to make those lists, because it looks good on transcripts and it's important to be excellent instead of average. I don't want my children to just be average - I want them to be outstanding. But they already are outstanding people and they're learning things in school and for that I am happy. I'd be happy with straight B's on the report cards as long as I could think back and realize that they did indeed work hard on projects and homework and studying for tests to get those B's. And it would be ok if they didn't make the list with all B's.

Maybe some of their classmates are in the happy medium where they know they did well, and the parents tell them that they did well (because they did) if they're not on the list. It's not the end of the world if you don't make the list and as long as you tried hard and learned something that's the important part, right? After all it's just a list...

...a piece of paper posted on a board for a few days.