Good afternoon beautiful people!
First off, you know what they say about the best-laid plans, right? Right?! Well that was me, last week. Had ideas for not one–but TWO posts. Set up an IG poll to decide which one to do first and everything. Then life got busy, and not only did I lose the chance to write on my normal schedule, I don’t even remember what prompted one of the titles that I had listed. Y’all forgive me–I need to start writing stuff down #notaprofessional
Anywho. I remember what prompted the other title, so here we go!
Recently, my eighth graders have been engaging in a process known as Passage Portfolio Presentations. Our school follows a curriculum known as EL, or Expeditionary Learning, and one common thread that runs among these schools is creating a space for students to share what they’ve learned in a way that is public and meaningful. At our school, that means that before eighth graders can move to the ninth grade, they must present both sixth and eighth grade work and talk about their work then, their work now, and how they both connect to how they’ll work in high school. This is a very big deal. Their Transitions teachers start preparing with them around February, completing reflections weekly for each subject and selecting work to represent those two subjects. The level of commitment and engagement varies, because some take the process seriously and others do not, but what (should) emerge(s) is a portfolio of work and reflective thinking that these kids basically defend–to family, administration, faculty–and to ensure an unbiased audience—complete strangers.
I’ve sat in 8 of these presentations so far, and though I thought I’d be an emotional wreck, I was actually far too amazed by them and nervous FOR them to cry. These kids are leaving me in 11 school days (hopefully–some of them are playing fast and loose with this promotion thing), and to compare what I see in front of me–these professionally dressed, articulate, composed and self aware eighth graders–with the rowdy, unpredictable, schoolwork-averse sixth graders that they were (and honestly still behave like sometimes) blows all the vestiges of my mind.
But this blog post isn’t about reflections, or passages, or panelists, per se…though it did come to mind sitting in one.
One of the last PPPs that I sat in was for my crew member A. This is her below, with identifying features concealed, since one can’t be too sure about you internet folks, sometimes:
A little about A: She is a consistently excellent student. She is driven, focused, does her work, (mostly) stays far away from the drama and silliness that can be middle school aged girls, is goal oriented, and has a beautiful smile. She is in my Crew, and sometimes I think that I haven’t done the best by her that I could…and I regret that.
You may wonder why I feel that way. I am a darn good Crew leader–consistent, generous, available. It is something that I am pretty proud of, because Lord knows it ain’t easy. So why would I think that I have psuedo-failed A? It is because a lot of my Crew members require a…heavier touch…than A does. Being consistently excellent, I don’t need to confer with her teachers about her work nearly as often to make sure that it is being done, and being done correctly. Being consistently excellent, I don’t have to use up all my good daytime minutes (joke) to call her mother and beg, plead, wail, gnash my teeth, bargain, bribe or lowkey threaten her to connect with me and gather her child up. Being consistently excellent, I don’t have to hear her name ad infinitum over my walkie talkie or see it in my inbox because she has gotten into yet another altercation of her own creation with another kid. Being consistently excellent, A does her work–her lowest grade right now is a 3.2 on a 4.0 scale. That’s her LOWEST. She rolls with a great group of similarly focused girls. She has her sights set on the competitive high school that she got into. I never stopped to think about whether she truly feels like she has a school mom like some of the others do until recently. My sappy reflectiveness as this process ends has me overthinking a bit and wondering if she ever felt let down when I popped my head into one of her classes–but not to see her, but to G-check another Crew member who I’d just received a behavior write-up for minutes beforehand. I wonder if she ever felt discarded when I did grade check ins on Fridays and didn’t even bother to look hers up, knowing instinctively that they’d be solid? I certainly hope not.
That was never my intent, but I know full well the slight resentment that comes from doing well for so long that people assume that you always will, and don’t stop to pluck and give you the flowers that you DESERVE for doing the damn thing (yeah, I said it. Fight me.) Who don’t even stop running and tugging the recalcitrant long enough to believe you when you say that being excellent is an exhausting job sometimes, and frankly you are sick of it…but you won’t stop because it is what is expected. Who understand you when you say that you still need your flowers, even if it’s the fourth bouquet this week, because it will always be easier to sit on your porch than it will be to go out at sunrise and harvest what you’ve planted. We sow and water and sweat and harvest ultimately because we wanna eat, but the process is often arduous. Like I told her after her presentation during the questions-comments-compliments portion: “excellent people need to be told that they are excellent”.
Sean Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about giving people their flowers while they are here to appreciate them–flowers being, of course, the love/appreciation/gratitude/respect that people need to keep going. God’s Word, in 2 Samuel 2, in Ephesians 1, in 1 Corinthians 1 and more, consistently speaks of being grateful for people. At my old school, we used a socio-emotional curriculum known as Responsive Classroom, and one of my favorite of their tenets says that children flourish in a space where there is belonging, significance, and fun. (Some versions also add relevance, which I love as well). It is simple really–a kid who comes to school and feels like they are a part of the tapestry, who feels like they and what they bring to the table are vital to the success of the whole, and who has space to let their hair down and goof off will do well. But isn’t that the case for all of us? At work, at church, in our social circle, in school, wherever; we need to belong, we need to feel significant, and we need to enjoy it even on the hard days.
A deserves her flowers. She always has, and she always will. But sometimes, we (and by we, I mean me as well) get so caught up with all of the other things that need our attention that we forget to appreciate the goodness of the people in front of us.
A, I am going to spend the next 11 school days (or more, if you return after the promotion ceremony) giving you your flowers. I hope that you know just how much you bring me joy. I hope that my confidence in your success oozes from my every interaction with you. I hope that you know how 3 years of knowing you has prompted me to not only call out the excellence that I see in other behind the scenes superstars, but also to demand that recognition for myself. You see, I am excellent and deserve my flowers as well.
Thank you, beautiful. With all the gratitude in the world,