Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Heart of the Matter

I don't love clichés, but they really can get right to the heart of the matter sometimes. Sometimes there simply aren't words – the right words, enough words – to give comfort or to explain a situation. And in those situations, sometimes clichés, the tired but comfortably worn words and phrases we've known all our lives, are all that we have left.

Today, I've been extremely frustrated and upset over what I perceive as a situation at my son's school. It's ridiculous, really, that I should feel this so deeply. That I should find myself furious over it. I mean, punch-the-wall-angry. And not merely angry over the situation, which I will explain in a moment, but angry because I feel so lonely and isolated and like very few other parents feel what I'm feeling. And there's nothing worse than feeling alone.

Oh! But how is all that related to clichés, you ask? Well, remember the one that says "To become a mother is to forever have your heart go walking around outside your body?" And that is precisely how I've felt all day. I mean, it's not that I don't usually feel it, but today I felt it acutely because I feel like my son and other kids at his school are being treated unfairly. Just writing that, I can feel the anger boiling up inside me.

Every semester his school has an Honors Day ceremony at which children are awarded certificates for academic achievement, any special awards from activities like spelling bees or events like the stock market competitions, and citizenship awards.

At the ceremony, certain children are chosen to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, welcome the parents, and give what is referred to as an "inspiration." Almost to a one, the only students selected to do this are from our school's magnet class. The magnet class is chosen by lottery but they are the favored students in our school, getting French 4 times per week, mostly white kids from two-parent homes, with a high level of support from the parents. In the four years I've been attending these events, I can think of only a handful of non-magnet kids or boys from any class who have had the honor of speaking role. Worse yet, one little girl has spoken at every single Honors Day since first grade. I hate her. (Okay. Not really. But she is super annoying and when the vice principal called her out today after she spoke by saying "Isn't she precious, everyone? I just looooove her!", I wanted to hurl.

So, I should just say "life's not fair" and move on. Except I can't because it affects that part of me walking around outside my body...that quickly growing son whom I love beyond measure.

I want my son to know how to stand up in a room full of people and speak with confidence. Unfortunately, with such limited opportunities and the few that do exist being given to the same kids over and over again, he may never get the chance while he's young enough to enjoy it without being overly insecure and analytical about his performance.

The thing is, every child deserves a chance. Not just mine. I remember being a goody-goody, straight A student who was also very shy. But I always knew the right answer and would always raise my hand in class. Being smart was the only thing I was good at as a child and I wanted that recognition of being called upon and getting the right answer. However, all of my teachers made a point of calling on the kids who rarely raised their hands or even choosing one who hadn't raised a hand to keep things equitable and to get everyone involved.

It was suggested to me by another parent when I pointed out this inequity that I'm nuts. Another parent suggested that perhaps the kids who get chosen volunteer.  And while I may be nuts, I know unfairness when I see it. And this ain't fair folks, even if the kids do volunteer.

I would say that it's incumbent upon the teachers to keep track of who did it last time (this could be a list on the chalkboard) and pick names out of a hat so that everyone has a fair shot at getting to do it. It's not that hard to be equitable. And to ensure that students from classes other than the magnet class get a chance, one child from each classroom should be chosen. Again, not that hard...four slots to fill, four classes. Go figure.

Of course, I thought writing about it would make me feel better and so far it hasn't. I feel slightly less angry. I also sent a polite note to my son's teacher asking her to explain the selection process. Again, while it was taking action, I'm not sure it will make a difference.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts. How are things like this handled at your kids' schools? What was it like when you were a kid? Should I let this go or speak up?

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