Saturday, June 8, 2013

On White Robes and a Mother's Private Boast

          Commencement exercises for Elena's high school graduation were rapidly approaching. She was studying for her final exams as talk about graduation ceremonies was making its way to my awareness: location, tickets, letters and official calls from school about the details regarding time, clothing requirements, seating specifics, etc. And this announcement from Elena: "So, I was chosen to wear a white robe because I'm in the top 10 of my class, but I'm not going to." Then she elaborated about how she didn't feel she deserved that special designation because in her words she "hadn't earned it." My reaction:

Tim and I so proud of our graduate

     "Mom, they don't weight the grades."
     (That is, a student earning a "B" in an Advanced Placement college level English class would have the same GPA as a student earning a "B" in a regular English class. No acknowledgement would be given that the AP English "B" is a significantly larger amount of work than the regular English B. Other schools do weight grades to acknowledge the rigorous nature of AP classes. So, for example, all things being equal between two hypothetical students, one with the AP English "B" might have a 4.0 and the one with the regular English "B" would have a 3.8. Furthermore, GPA's are what determine your class rank.)
     "So?" I argued. "If the school determines that you have earned a special academic designation according to their guidelines, then take it!"
     "But I know students," she countered, "that have worked really hard in AP classes who are not in that category and other students who took regular classes all throughout high school and they are. It's not fair that they don't weight the grades. I really don't think I earned that distinction. I've only been at that school for a year and I only had one AP class." On and on the impassioned discussions proceeded with not just me, but her friends and classmates. When the time finally came to pick up her cap and gown, she approached the counter to speak with the gown attendant. "So, it says here that you get a white robe?"
      "I spoke with my counselor about it last week. I don't want the robe because I really don't think I earned it. You really should weight the grades." She began a strong, but respectful appeal for a more fair grading system that accurately represented student effort and achievement. In the end, the bewildered administrator looked at her and said, "So you don't want the white robe?" Elena politely declined and was handed her red robe and mortar board.
     Graduation at the grand and impressive Pasadena Civic Auditorium arrived. As I walked into the facility I noticed all the graduates lined up and ready to proceed into the auditorium. But I especially noticed the white robed graduates at the front of the line. I winced in a small heartbreaking moment of reality: my daughter was not among them. I had accepted her decision and was supportive of her convictions. I had told her earlier in the week that if she felt strongly about not wearing the white robe, then she should stick to her conviction. After all, her Dad and I knew the truth. Still, seeing all the students lined up and not seeing my daughter among them was rather painful in a surprising way. Furthermore, as all 474 graduates filled the seating area on the stage, complete with the requisite brass band playing "Pomp and Circumstance," Elena came in almost last because of her last name starting with a "T."
     In an ironic twist, she and her fellow friend and choir member sang a duet that not even they knew they would be singing. She and her friend were the only ones who had shown up for the rehearsal, and now they both were singing a fun, celebratory duet in front of about 3, 000 people. Here was the catch for me: her friend had a white robe.
     Her friend had been number 11 in the line up. How proud her parents must've been.
     My private boast is this: my daughter had earned that special designation. She had worked tremendously hard in very rigorous writing and physics classes taught at her home school academy classes. She had also taught herself algebra and geometry with excellent textbooks during her sophomore and junior years. Her score on the CAHSEE  in mathematics was a perfect score. More importantly, though, is that my daughter cared about fairness and justice and was willing to forego the outward appearance of success in order to stand up for principles that she felt strongly about. I was very, very proud of her. Even if no one would see it from the outside.
Elena's duet with her friend


La-de-la said...

I saw it.

Carol R. said...

It's so exciting to see our girls grow up! Congratulations to Elena and especially to you, Laura, for raising an intelligent and more importantly, humble daughter!

foutfolk said...

WOW! I love that she is able to express her own beliefs and that you are confident enough to let her be her own young woman. Most parents I know would have treated her like a child and MADE her do what they wanted her to do. I guess it is your maturity that reminds you that her life is going to be full of decision making and the sooner she starts making good ones, the better she will be at doing it. Congrats to both of you. :)

LauraT said...

What was reassuring, Garth, was that I sensed the Lord impress upon me that there would come a time where He would honor her and she would not be able to say, "no." "The first shall be last and the last shall be first."
I always have to keep the "long view" in mind. I am so, so proud of her character.

Mary H said...

Hey, Laura T. It's your old pal, -M-. Now known as Mary H. Per your advice, I finally started my own blog a few months back and I thought you might be interested to check it out. It's I am pretty new to the blogging world, so if you have any sage advice on building a blog, I'd welcome your input. Have a great day!