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The Unique Qualities Of a Fifth Grade "Great American"

emotional intelligence failure and success love parenting story May 17, 2022

I look at my 11 year old's eyes, red and watery. I just reminded him that tomorrow is the award ceremony for the 5th grade Great American Award. 

"But mom, I only passed off two of the things. I didn't get all five passed off."

He starts to panic then cry. "I tried, I really wanted to pass them all off. But I could only remember some of the state capitals. I couldn't remember all the presidents of the United States." 

This time of year, all over the United States, the kids who pass off all the requirements for this program will stand in front of a crowd of parents teachers and peers to be given the title of a "Great American". 

Here are the requirements for the Great American Award for 5th graders. 

  • Recite the Gettysburg Address
  • Recite the names of the 44 Presidents in order by date office was held 
  • Locate and spell correctly the States and Capitals on a map 
  • Recite or sing the National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” 
  • Recite the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States 
  • Write the Pledge of Allegiance 

My heart aches and my face feels warm. I have to look away. Who determined what makes a Great American anyway? I can think of a few people who could pass this off and might not be the best examples of "Great Americans".

What if we created a generation of "Great Americans" who learned the social emotional skills of

  • Listening without judgement
  • Having empathy for others 
  • Managing big emotions in a healthy way
  • Stand up for themselves and others
  • Feels confident in their unique talents and gifts
  • Makes random acts of kindness a habit
  • Respects others points of views

Can you imagine what that generation of "Great Americans" could accomplish? 

For those kids who worked hard to pass off all these requirements, way to go! 🥳🥳🥳 I love what you've done. It's certainly not easy and I can't do it! You have accomplished something great! Keep working hard to become a well rounded Great American! You're well on your way. 

As for the rest of the kids who, like my son, aren't able to do all the writing and memorization, you guys are also incredible! 🥳🥳🥳 You accomplish big things by showing up and working hard. You don't need an award or piece of paper to be a "Great American". You just be you. 

Today at 2:30 I'll show up at the school and take a seat on a cold metal chair. I'll listen to the amazing things the kids have worked hard on this year. I'll clap and smile brightly at every single 5th grader there. 

Today will be a good day because as I'm sitting in the gymnasium on that cold metal chair, my son will see me loving him for who he is right now. Not because he's the best at anything, but because he showed up just the way he is. 

Last night I sat on the bed face to face with my son. "This award doesn't mean you are good or bad. You are a fantastic kid because you are created to be unique. I don't love you because of an award or grade or number or anything else. I love you because you are trying your hardest to be the best kid you can be every single day. That's what matters most to me. I would never trade you for another kid with a certificate or higher grade. Ever. " 

I hugged him for an extra few seconds last night. I'm so grateful for him. 

This is a time of year for us to help our kids see what really makes them great. It's not about the awards, certificates, accomplishments, or grades.

They are great because they are unique and just the way that God made them. They each have talents and skills that are valuable and needed. For those kids who can listen, show empathy, manage emotions, be strong, feel confident, see their unique qualities, exercise kindness, and respect their peers, I see you too.

I appreciate your quiet, silent skills. They are not less valuable than the ones that can be recognized easier. 

You are loved. You are needed. Keep being you! 💜

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