I’ve always disliked the word “average” especially in correlation to student growth. Yes, I know it’s a common word, and yes, I realize you have to have SOME word to represent the middle-of-the-road achievement. But “average” has always struck a nerve with me because of its lackluster negativity: not really awful, but not that great either.
In education, and in life, we tend to attach labels to people that never quite exemplify their true potential. Often, these labels stick like velcro to the soul; removable, sure, but only after a lot of pulling and ripping in the right direction.
When I was younger, I had the heart of an overachiever, but the skill set of a sometimes struggling student. My grades were ok, I guess, as sometimes I did well and sometimes I did not. I tackled battles in silence with labels quickly attached to my achievement based on the grade on the paper.
I was good, but not quite good enough. I needed to read more. Write more. Study more. Be more. There was always someone else with better grades, stronger limbs, unwavering vocal intonation. I could never quite find that perfect recipe to rise to the top.
I was the average child.
There were moments in my recollection when I can see a shimmer of potential shining through, but the labels remained in my heart and in my mind for years. I realized I had to work twice as hard to master concepts and conventions that came so easily to those around me. There were times I just didn’t have the energy to see it through.
Then came high school graduation.
I graduated in a class of 440 students. We each met the academic requirements in our own way – some soaring to heights of unbelievable greatness with college scholarships padding pockets and honor cords draped on graduation gowns. Others were thrilled to simply wear the gown and attend the party, a milestone moment for personal and family achievement.
What I love about graduation day is that it celebrates everyone! While there are defined moments during the ceremony for those who excel beyond expectation, every single child who entered those school doors on that first day of kindergarten, with their potential unknown, has finally arrived at the same destination to be celebrated by those in attendance.
Graduation day is a day to recognize the achievements of all.
As we finish out our final week of school with students, attending elementary and middle school awards ceremonies and listening to accolades for those who soar, my heart is shining a light on the average kids who, like me, were waiting for their moment to shine.
I see you.
I see your potential.
I see your greatness.
I know how challenging your journey is compared to that of another. I also know that you will have a multitude of opportunities to show the world just how amazing you are. You will discover how to embrace those attributes that are uniquely yours and yours alone and you will learn how to lean into your strengths as you set the example for others.
Soon, my sweet students.
Your day will arrive and it will be spectacular as we celebrate YOU.