“Why my son won’t be accepting his 100% attendance award” went viral 4 years ago. The photo of one 9-year-old‘s left ear went round the world and was seen by millions of people – along with my rant about how much I dislike 100% Attendance Awards and how, in my opinion, they undervalue community and compassion.
A lot can happen in 4 years. Let’s be honest, a lot has happened in the past 4 months. It’s normal to see people walking around with masks on their face, awkward handshakes are distant memories and we’ve all started to use words like ‘social isolation’ and the ‘R’ number. Well the wind of change doesn’t stop here.
I’ve had a complete change of heart.
This year my son’s current setting* awarded him with a ‘Certificate of Rubbish Attendance.’ Having only walked into his school for 61% of the allocated term dates. It is fair to say this year is his worst for attendance by a mile.
Despite such shocking attendance he hasn’t actually been sick in the past five months. He did have some days off school last year after an emergency operation (I’m not used to sleeping on the floor next to his hospital bed) but it did lead to a couple of great days binge watching ‘The Good Place’ together. However, throughout the last few months he has shown up and studied every day.
Let’s not sugar coat it.
I’m not sure any of us have excelled but we did find a rhythm. He has followed his school timetable each day and produced work of varying standards with alternating levels of enthusiasm, complaining and resignation. It hasn’t been easy for anyone. Most of it was out of our control (like all attendance success which rewards people for not getting sick.) But still my son kept on keeping on. So along with his Attendance award he was delighted to receive an upgraded mobile phone with extra data – see there are advantages to our cobbled together ‘home school’.
There is so much we can learn from our experiences living in an era of Covid-19. I really hope some lessons last long after a vaccine. For example, how great would it be if we abandoned pointless attendance awards. What if our schools and society came to realise the essence of community comes in protecting the vulnerable, supporting the weaker amongst us and acknowledging those who care. How different life could be if kept remembering that we all rely on each other whilst trundling through this thing called life together.
We are all vulnerable and we are all valued.
Our frailty and our humanity units us. The spirit we felt standing on our front door steps clapping at 8pm on a Thursday night, doesn’t have to diminish with infection rates. We can be a more compassionate, inclusive, appreciative society which values and rewards the aspects of life which bring out the best in us.
Or…we can just bring schools back in September and start threatening legal action to anxious parents whose behaviour has been fuelled by fear delivered on a silver platter by the government for the past four months.
You know – whichever.
At the end of this academic year, I can honestly say we are proud of this boy every single day and so thankful for the ways he brightens our lives – less arguing wouldn’t go a miss though. I’m sure the big brochure of school tasks he has been sent to do through the summer holidays won’t be met with any resistance; so it’s all good**.
(Here’s a photo of my wonderful boy and his right ear because I believe in ear- equality.)
** Give me strength or just pass me the gin.