Monday, June 23, 2014

Awards and Rewards, and Lack There Of

Way back in Mid-May when it was the last day of school and time for the end-of-year award ceremony, I sat and watched as my first grader left the auditorium without a single ribbon in her hand. She was one of the few in the whole place to not receive something, and I believe the only in her class. 

I made every effort to not become 'that parent' who lodged a complaint about my child be unfairly treated. But I can't lie. I was upset.

This year had been a tough one for Tessa who struggled a lot with reading. She didn't get any ribbons for honor roll, perfect attendance, or book-it. Surprisingly she didn't even get one for citizenship even though her behavior at school had always been top notch to my knowledge. And despite getting an A in Bible class every grading period, she didn't get a Bible award either.

There was nothing for her.

I guess as a parent, the reason that this stung was because she had worked so hard. She began meeting with a reading tutor three times a week after school in March and between then and May was able to improve her reading by SEVEN levels.

I don't care to expound about my feelings about how this could have happened. I have nothing bad to say about the teacher or the school. If anyone cares to sit down with me and a glass of wine, I would tell you how first grade was more difficult than I expected, and how our school choice turned out differently than I expected.

And at the end of that conversation I would tell you that Tessa wasn't upset by her lack of ribbons. She wasn't upset when I told her that she would have to start seeing a tutor because she was reading like a kindergartener. She wasn't upset when she realized that all of that extra work would cut into her time for fun things like gymnastics and TV. She wasn't upset when we told her that we would be moving to a different school that could more appropriately help her.

She stayed resilient and positive.

At camp last week she got the character award for contentment. He camp counselor said she was always happy to go with the flow.
And there I saw what I had been waiting for....someone taking a moment to recognize her for who she really is, and give her an award that matters. 

Of course this summer has not been without other awards and rewards. Tessa got her 5th ribbon for completing her 5th dance recital. Every year she become more grown up and natural onstage, and continues to love dancing.

She also got baptized at the beginning of June, which is an even bigger deal because it comes with the reward of salvation. In our church we wait to baptize kids until they are old enough to understand and choose it on their own. She came to us and asked about it and said she was ready, completely on her own leading. And even though she chickened out when Pastor Doug tried to talk to her onstage in front of the whole congregation, she understood that this makes her a real member of our church.

She even took her first communion that same day. Her rewards that day were bigger than any stupid ribbon.

This summer she is continuing to see her tutor twice a week, who is confident that she will start second grade at grade level standard...which is awesome! In my mind, I like to envision that this school year is going to be a much better and easier one, but of course there is no guarantee of that. In my imagination though, I see her getting ribbons next year at the end-of-year awards ceremony.

And if she doesn't, I have to remember her gift of contentment and remind myself that it doesn't matter. Awards and rewards are only ever as important as you make them.

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