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Inattentive About Attendance

, , , , , , | Learning | April 23, 2021

Back when I was in middle school, when students completed eighth grade, the school would have a “graduation” to celebrate the student’s move up to high school. This graduation was similar to high school graduation; however, it focused more on the achievements of students, with many awards given. From academic achievements to sports achievements, almost every student received an award.

I was always a high achieving student, but I was never the top one — I missed being in the top 5% of my graduating class from high school by one person, for example — so I knew it was unlikely I would receive any academic awards.

My claim to fame at the time was the fact that I hadn’t missed a day of school since kindergarten. I know, nowadays everyone realizes how bad it is to give an award for coming to school when sick, but back then it really mattered to me. To get the perfect attendance award at the graduation, you had to not have missed a single day of seventh and eighth grade: two full years of classes you had to go to. And I had.

This was additionally impressive because I had a birth deformity that caused me to have over a dozen surgeries by the time I graduated high school. Over my time in middle school, I had two surgeries. Despite being in tremendous pain and taking strong painkillers, I was always in school long enough for it to count.

The day before the graduation, I went to the front office to ask a question about something unrelated and got on the topic of graduation with the secretary who was assisting me. I asked about the perfect attendance award, and while she told me she wasn’t allowed to release the names of who was getting what award before graduation, she did know there was one name for that award. I thought that confirmed it; I was guaranteed at least one award.

The next evening was graduation. I was super excited, as is any student; we all thought we were so cool, about to start high school. The night was wearing on, and we got to the final few awards. I hadn’t received a single award, which I expected, but I wasn’t upset because I knew my award was coming. Finally, they announced the award, went on a spiel about how some years no one wins this award, but this year there was one!

I was getting ready to stand, as I was also on crutches for an unrelated injury to my ankle; the student sitting next to me knew I was expecting this award and had agreed to help me stand up when it came.

They announced the name… and it wasn’t me. I was so upset, and the other kid looked a bit confused. I almost started crying at graduation. The awards finished and I didn’t receive anything.

I found a friend and expressed how upset I was, and he mentioned that we should talk to the guidance counselor. We eventually found her, and I expressed how upset I was that my name wasn’t called for the award. She initially gave me some pushback — apparently, a computer program spits out the correct students for each award so it’s “never wrong” — but I pushed too. She said she would check as a favour to me, and we left her.

Before the end of the night, the counselor found me again with my parents. She told me she’d read the program incorrectly; I was the only person to get perfect attendance. The student whose name was called had only missed one day and was second on the list. She told me she would print out another certificate and get it dropped off at my homeroom for the next morning.

At this point, it meant nothing to me. As a middle schooler who was smart but not the smartest, athletic but not the most athletic, and going through what I would later realize was a depressive episode, this was supposed to be my one moment to shine. My homeroom teacher the next morning tried to make a point to present my award, but no one really cared. I got home and threw the award away.

I learned my lesson, though: my next surgery, I took an entire week off school and really milked my recovery period.

Eight years later in college, I now have problems seeing the importance of attending classes, because that one teacher let me down when it meant the most to me.

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