This morning I’m invited to the 6th grade awards assembly at Renowned Middle School. This may mean simply that The Princess will receive a "points" award for her extracurricular activities. (Her brothers gained fame for forgetting to turn in their points sheets at least one year each.)

I remember feeling very competitive on #1 Son’s behalf and overjoyed when he won academic awards. I’m glad to say that I have cooled down a bit, although having a cousin in the same grade may make me feel a little more eager on The Princess’ behalf.

This is in part because I won so few awards at anything in my school life. Every summer at camp I hoped for one of the drama awards, but even when I had a significant enough part, it never happened. My brother won trophies all the time, and I sensed I must lack some important quality, since I did not. I was a senior in high school before any such acknowledgment came my way (Best Actress in a Leading Role for playing Lucy in "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown" and Most Outstanding in the Choir–it was a pretty happy day for me).

I remain conflicted about awards. After all, we’ll get our reward in heaven, right?

How about you? Did awards come easily? Not at all? Was there something you always wished for and never received? And does it still matter to you now?

22 thoughts on “Awards”

  1. Awards make me … uncomfortable. My teeny tiny high school (5 people in my grade) instituted awards for the highest grade in each subject in each year while I was there, and it was weird and fairly uncomfortable to sweep most of the awards for just doing my normal thing. The medals I got are in my closet at my parents’ house; I am not very proud of them, since it doesn’t feel like I actually _did_ anything to earn them.
    These awards did not help my not-particularly-high opinion of the school’s ability to teach me anything.
    Ah, school. Such cheerful memories.

  2. I must confess that I was really proud of my awards in high school and college, and even in middle school. I’m still proud of most of them, and my little sheets of paper are in a file in the basement — I probably see them once a year when I’m looking for something else. They give me a warm feeling, I suppose because I worked hard and it was recognized by other people. Some I got for just being smart, and those matter less to me than the awards for working hard and pursuing (and achieving) a goal.
    Maybe I’ll remember them less in time (I’m 2 years from college and 6 from high school), but I think I’ll always get a warm feeling when I look back.

  3. I get a tight feeling in my throat just hearing the word awards.
    In high school, I was honorable mention for 4 things, and got nothing. My sister got a million thing.
    In college, we didn’t do awards. Or if we did, I didn’t know about it.
    In seminary, though, there were lots of awards and prizes, and I was told by all my friends that I was a shoe-in for several. But the preaching professor that I’d had for 5 classes was on sabbatical. And his sabbatical replacement picked all the prizes. And he didn’t pick me. It was horrible. If my friends hadn’t jacked me up like that, I wouldn’t have cared as much. I just had it in my head that I was finally going to get my moment in the sun. Nada.
    Now that I work in colleges, I get all anxious over these awards days, and the students don’t really care.

  4. Honestly, awards came easily for me but always took me by surprise. I wish that I had the self esteem then that I had now to see what those people really thought about me.

  5. Well, The Princess got a pin for “points,” but her cousin won the school’s Spirit Award, basically the highest honor they have going. I’m wondering how many years of this we can handle?

  6. As a teacher I see so many awards going out, that I think we hit a saturation point. And some parents get way too hyped up about some awards.
    And some don’t give a flying flip.
    I didn’t get a lot of awards in school, but I did get top musician in my senior year in high school. I was pretty proud of that, but there were others just as worthy!

  7. For years and years the only award I had ever won was a third-place ribbon in a swim team competition. There were, of course, three people swimming in the race. You can do the math. Yeah.
    Then there was the time I got a history paper back with the words “Winner of the [annual history] Prize” whited out and “Runner up for the [annual history] Prize” written over them. Turned out you had to be a senior to win the prize, and I was only a junior. The prize went to one of my best friends. My paper was better. I’m just saying.
    Now would you like to hear more about the luncheon we all had to attend to honor those of my college classmates who had won Rhodes scholarships, Rockefeller grants, Nobel prizes, etc.? Or do you already have a good sense for how very much I love awards?
    Is there some chocolate lying around here? I could suddenly use some.

  8. Unlike my children’s schools, my middle and high schools had no awards ceremonies for anyone but high school seniors right at the end, and then only to pass out scholarships, announce Merit Finalists, etc.
    Although I graduated 7th in my high school class (not a big thing — there were only 110 of us, and we had NO weighted or AP courses) I’d been very careful about letting my peers know just how well I was doing. I was already a nerdly, marginalized kid and didn’t feel like taking extra bullying when they found out I was often the one blowing the curve, so questions like, “How’d you do on the test?” were met with “I did alright,” or “Can’t complain.” So after the lone graduating-senior-awards ceremony, I had half-a-dozen people come up to me and say, “I knew you were smart, but I didn’t know you were that smart.” I had to have those scholarships just to get into a state college, honey.
    I think my kids’ schools may be over-reacting to the “athletics are rewarded, academics are not” complaints. The middle school holds a separate ceremony for each grade. Everybody w/ a grade point between 3.0 and 4.0 gets an award; each teacher picks out two kids for each subject they teach to honor; plus the contest winners are announced for music, math, art and science, and all the Duke Talent Search participants. Alas, except for the grade-point stuff it tends to be the same kids called up over and over, which means they go home and throw the “medals” into a drawer and the rest sit and fidget for an hour while the presentations occur. At least it’s done in the evening and something’s sent home beforehand so that you know your child is receiving something.
    The high school holds an academic “pep” assembly once a year where everybody over a certain grade point average gets recognition, a t-shirt, and a card good for discounts at local retailers. They hold a separate awards ceremony (BEFORE school starts in the morning, ugh) where each teacher picks one student from all their classes to recognize. #1-Son’s language arts teacher chose him this year. (Yes, language arts. For Mr. “I wanna be a physicist and collide particles.”)

  9. You know…I havent gotten a lot of awards, but it hasn’t bothered me. I guess we didn’t have so many awards to win back then!
    I was the school spelling champion for 2 years in junior high. Oh! and I won a competition for the best essay from my school on “Why I am Proud to be an American” during the Bicentennial year. It was 1975 and Watergate was going on (or had been). I was in 5th grade and very naive, and one of my points of pride was that, in America, no one was allowed to tap your phone!
    Yeah, right!
    The out of it award, maybe…

  10. My high school didn’t have any official awards, but my band director made trophies for band students who sold the most oranges and grapefruits. (Seriously – selling crates of citrus was the band’s major annual fundraiser.) So my one high school award is 10th Place in Fruit Sales.
    My high school English teacher encouraged me to enter writing contests, so I won a few things outside of school. The teacher said I was sure to win a city-wide contest that had two winners – one boy, one girl – from each high school. But the prizes were awarded at a Mother-Child luncheon and I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting there alone when everyone else had a mother, so I didn’t even enter.
    My one real award, which I received in college, was for essay writing. No prize money or plaque, but I got a suitable-for-framing certificate that I never framed.

  11. I was not a person who ever got awards. I was so excited just to have my Red Cross swimming cards! My kids went to Montessori school through 8th grade — an awards-are-evil environment. Then they started getting them in high school. Soem good ones. Then some other stuff happened and awards were the last thing on my mind. Now life is better again and I am enjoying my kids’ successes in college, including some recognition. But I know that in the grand scheme of things, the significance of awards is miniscule at best.

  12. Wow, Songbird, you really hit on something here. Look at all these thoughtful comments!
    My eldest daughter went to a school where the athletics program gave out lots of awards — arts and academics? not so much. But at graduation, we witnessed “Revenge of the Nerds” as my daughter and all her friends swept the awards for art, music, and academics. So satisfying! I wish I were a bigger person, but I’m not 🙂

  13. When I was growing up I was pretty smart, but not as smart as my older sister who graduated 2nd in her class. And I was good in music, but not nearly as good as my older brother who won honors for his instrumentals and accolades for his vocals. I think that awards generally make me feel just “almost good enough.” Yuck.

  14. “Happiness is playing the drum in your own school band…”
    Your blog makes me burst into song more often than anyone else’s.
    I got a couple of awards for writing bad poetry in high school. Well, nobody said it was bad poetry at the time. Hence the awards.

  15. “And happiness is walking hand in hand.”
    That play is my best memory of all my school years, bar none. Totally fabulous. I have no idea whether I was any good in it or not, but I loved the whole experience. To get an award was just icing on the cake.

  16. never easily for me … and yeah I long for our kids’ qualities to be recognised. The best for me so far was when TS got the most gentlemanly behaviour award for his icehockey team two seasons ago… for me that was worth a lot. He shrugged it off as ‘nothing much’ … but it showed that his values were the same on the ice as at home.He didn’t swear etc … wish I could say the same now … teenagers!!! (oh and he quit ice hockey too – scuba dives now instead … calmer 🙂

  17. My older brother particularly was extraordinarily competitive and awards played a big role in our family. We all got our fair share. Maybe because I am the middle child and only daughter, I fell in love with the concept of “new games” that took all the pressure out of competitiveness and focused only on cooperation and fun. And yet…when I worked with FedEx, I was fortunate to win the top corporate award twice–and each time, I practically tripped over my feet to call my parents to let them know.
    Hmm…some tension between self esteem, self affirmation, earning my parent’s respect and a deeper sense that we are at our best in cooperation and community. I suspect it’s one of those ambivalences I won’t resolve easily…

  18. Meh. The first thing that came to mind when I read the question isn’t something I’m particularly proud of. The only award I have ever coveted is the one that our summa cum laude graduates give to someone who has made a difference in their education. As you might imagine, the physics teacher, the band director and the choir director rack up a lot of these, but not so much a French/Spanish teacher who rarely teaches seniors. I’m embarrassed to say that I thought I had my chance this year with a class full of over-achieving seniors. Then I learned that the one who might have picked me was knocked out of summa status by an asshole colleague of mine who wouldn’t let her make up some work from when she was out having SURGERY. I guess you could say I’m over the whole awards thing. But I still love hearing those summas talk about the people who’ve made a difference in their lives. It’s inspiring even if it’s not me.

  19. I won a few awards in school, but they were all for writing or drama. What I really wanted to win was an athletic trophy — which is laughable, since I’m about the most unathletic person that I know.
    I think that, as far as school goes, the awards ceremonies seem unfair. You have the same four or five kids for each grade who sweep all the awards. That doesn’t make the kids who DON’T get anything feel very good. That’s why, in my class, everyone gets an award. Not everyone is going to be an academic breakout, but everyone is good at *something.* We gave out academic awards, but we also gave out things like good citizenship, most helpful, friendliest so that everyone felt like they were special.
    Now, normally, I’m not in favor of just giving awards out just to spare someone’s feelings, but they’re five and six. They truly don’t understand why everyone else is getting something, and they are not. By the time you make it to high school, you are fully aware that you may not get an award, and while you may disappointed, you know that this is a possibility.
    I realize that some people may not agree with the “everyone gets an award” approach, but I say they’re in kindergarten. Why crush their souls so early in the game?

  20. I did quite well with awards at school, but that, being me, meant that I couldn’t believe they meant anything at all…except for the Music prize I was awarded in my final term at school, just before my dad died..because it was a boys’ school that only had girls in the 6th form, and I was the first girl to have ever won it…and daddy, who was pretty sick by then, was so proud of me.
    It’s always the awards we don’t win that we remember…my beautiful wonderful wannabe writer daughter won Music, History and assorted other school prizes – but never English…She became completely fixated on this for a while, believing that none of the positive comments and A grades she had achieved could possibly be “real”. it was only when she had left school that she discovered that the faculty were convinced that she was winning all sorts of awards for her writing outside school, and didn’t think she needed the affirmation. Did she heck!
    Oh…I don’t know. I enjoyed the awards i did get, and love it when my children do well – but really, is it worth the heartache? Almost certainly not.

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