Because We Are Adults

I recently attended an “Honors Night” ceremony for two of my kids. It's a school district award held in the auditorium at what used to be Technical High School here in Omaha. It's a beautiful old building and the auditorium is quite ornate. I know you don't care about my kids' honors night and the point here isn't to talk about my kids. I'm just setting the stage and explaining why I was there.


To me the relevant point is that the people in attendance, at the very least, have taken an interest in their child's education and taken time out of their schedules to attend what is a well thought out ceremony in a beautiful venue. In theory, these are the families that would be the most supportive of their child's school and the most apt to set a good example by modeling appropriate behavior during the event. The thing about theories is that they are sometimes very, very wrong.


My kids go to a big inner-city school. I don't have the program in front of me but I would estimate about 75 to 100 kids received some sort of recognition. Each student gets his or her name and accomplishments read, shakes hands with the presenter and walks across the stage. I guess it's somewhat like a graduation ceremony in design. The school administrators make a huge effort to get this sort of thing done in under 90 minutes, partially in reaction to complaints in the past that the ceremony has simply lasted too long. Admittedly, it had been long enough to make me fidgety in the past, but the night is so not about me. Thusly, I suck it up and sit still until the last honoree has received a certificate. Because I'm an adult.


I was pleased at the announcement last year that the principal was trying to streamline the event and I listened while he asked for cooperation from the audience. The principal made one request, which was to hold applause until the entirety of each section had been announced (there were about six groups with 10 to 15 students in each one). Seems like a simple, logical concept to me. You can't read the next name if someone is making noise in the audience because it's not fair to have a student's name obscured by the loud family of the kid before him or her. Honestly, it really is tedious to offer up polite applause to every single kid that walks across the stage as he or she gets an award. Let's all agree that we respect each others' kids, and that we are all extremely proud of our own. Because, you know, we're all adults.


About half the crowd didn't get it right. Seriously, half. Some applauded constantly. Some applauded for all the kids they happen to personally know. Some applauded only for their own offspring. This last group definitely won “most obnoxious”. They all failed to listen to the instructions to hold applause until the end of each section. Furthermore, the directive from the principal was simply to NOT do something. If you fell asleep you would get it right by default. They actively chose to ignore the principal, essentially putting their own interests and importance ahead of all other students and the staff. At a middle school event. To which nobody paid admission. And they even gave away free cookies. Free freaking cookies! For all this all everyone had to do was show up and follow one simple instruction.


Of course this utter failure by many significantly slowed the process, as the presenters were forced to wait in between in between names for the noise to die down. One guy (an adult at least in his 40s) stood up and shrieked “That's my son!” when his boy was announced. Yeah, it is, and you just made him wish you had stayed home because everyone at school is going to tease him about his father squealing like a toddler at Honors Night. This is about him, not you dude, so sit your a$$ down. By the way, my son is up there too and most everyone here has a child on the stage so you aren't really all that special amongst this company. It's not as if tons of random people go to middle school honors nights because of their entertainment value.


The event ended up lasting over two hours again, and of course people were complaining about it on the way out. Mostly the same people who failed to follow instructions in the first place. Weird. What's frustrating is that the staff of the school recognized a legitimate complaint from parents that Honors Night lasted too long. So, they brainstormed and came up with an idea to speed things along. A good idea. An idea that required everyone just to do nothing. Nothing! And by simply doing nothing, they would help solve the very problem that THEY had complained about in the first place.


But none of this is the real problem. The real problem is the horrible example that a full half of the parents were setting for the kids who are most assuredly watching their every move all night. The “do as I say not as I do” mentality has never worked well. It becomes difficult to insist that kids to go to school and show the respect the staff and other students deserve when you can't be bothered to show the same courtesy yourself and you don't care who knows that. If that's you, than you are adulting wrong.


I believe in schools. I believe in teachers and I believe in the students. It's an institution that does much more than simply teach book learning. It taught me to be a better person. It made me WANT to be a better person. I want the same for my kids, and yours. If you don't buy into it, that's fine. To each their own, but rather than come and show blatant disrespect to the entire concept, stay home and don't mess it up for the adults.