Tuesday, October 28, 2008


"Successful people are not superhuman. Success does not require a super-intellect. Nor is there anything mystical about success. And success isn't based on luck. Successful people are just ordinary folks who have developed belief in themselves and what they do." -David J. Schwartz

Last Friday, our high school held its annual induction ceremony for the National Honor Society. I was unable to attend, due to scheduling conflicts. Immediately after the assembly ended, though, I heard a first-hand account of the event from some very agitated teenagers.

Evidently, an administrator had pointed proudly to the new NHS members on the stage and said to the audience, "They are the future, the future leaders" (numerous sources have confirmed that this is an accurate quote). This left many of the unchosen ones feeling angry and insulted.

Rather than try to gloss over this situation, I asked that my students voice their criticisms, anonymously, in a Word Document, which I promised to share with the principal. Those who were inducted (4 of the 15 class members) added their opinions, once they returned from a celebratory reception.

  • National Honor Society is good because it looks good on a college application and we get recognized for our hard work.
  • I think that the assembly was a thanks that we worked hard and wanted a brighter future.
  • I feel that the National Honor Society is good because it recognized people for good work and their accomplishments. It is also a great contributor to getting into colleges.
  • The positive aspects of National Honor Society are that they are noticing the most accomplished students. It helps people get into colleges and be noticed for their excellence. Other students don't like it because they are not being noticed. It is their fault they did not work hard to accomplish this task. We worked hard to accomplish this and that is why we are being noticed. The National Honor Society is a good thing for our students.

  • I think the assembly was ridiculous because...a few people should have not been up there and a few people from the audience should have been chosen. The Assembly made me very mad because it made me feel not welcomed and not appreciated by this school. [the administrator] said these people are the future, well, what am I, nothing in the future because I was not on the National Honor Society?
  • I don't believe that the Honor Society is the only future. We are the future too. It makes other people feel bad and stupid. Everybody has the same potential. It makes us feel dumb and it's unfair and people are inconsiderate of us.
  • I think it is ******* *** to say that only the people on stage are the future when they're not only the future but it's everybody else too. I think it is just to make those certain people feel good and everybody else like retarded. And it always doesn't depend on your grades and it doesn't depend on your school, it depends on how you are, not just in school. All the students that struggle in classes don't have the same treatment as the people that are good with subjects. Some people just have problems learning. School isn't always the most important thing, you always don't need school. I can get by without school. You give me a hammer and tape measure and I can build about anything and make more money than half the people that went to college and have a great life and get by with no problem. Certain people have certain traits and are good at things.
  • I feel that students should have to go to the National Honor Society so we can support our fellow students. I DO NOT think that [the administrators] should be saying "THEY ARE THE FUTURE..." And what are we supposed to be, scum and low lives? It feels like we are NOTHING, and they are everything. Rachel's Challenge says that everyone is worth something!!! They should have recognized us as well!!!! I think the students should also vote on who should be in NHS!!!! It is SOOOOOOO wrong!
  • I don't like the fact that we all had to go to that *** assembly for all the stupid preps that already think they're better than everybody...and think that they're the best. I think I'm a good leader and I pretty much just got told that I was nothing and that I should pretty much just die. Most of the people that just got called up on that stage are nothing more than I am. It ****** me off that they just got special recognition for stupid **** like school. Outside of school, I do anything I can to help and I don't get recognized for any of it.
  • The assembly: I believe it was sort of unnecessary to have it displayed in front of the entire high school. The leadership and character and all these things...they exclude people and these people in front of us a whole are considered the only ones who possess these characteristics. Why can't we have an assembly with only parents and those who are being honored? The speech said "They are the future leaders." What about the rest of us???? I'm a B student, I work extremely hard for the grades that I do have and I do not get recognized, just because I'm weak in some areas. I work just as hard if not harder than those on that very stage. I just think it makes some kids feel bad about themselves and it's not needed.

  • I really don't care. It will get me out of class.
  • It doesn't really matter to me, but I don't think it should be up to the teachers to pick who has good character because they don't know what those kids do on the weekend...Going to school is not for me. I'd rather work any day of the week and earn an honest living.
  • I don't really care.

The passion and maturity of these responses impressed me. My students appreciated having the chance to make their voices heard, and I appreciated their candor and eloquence.

What are your thoughts on the National Honor Society and awards assemblies? These young adults would like to know.

"Success is not a doorway, it's a staircase." -Dottie Walters

"Success in life comes not from holding a good hand, but in playing a poor hand well.” -Denis Waitley

"Staircase" by 96dpi


Kim said...

I'll be interested to hear more about this situation because I've just been recruited to be the advisor for NHS at my new school.

I give a lot of credit to the students for speaking their minds about the situation. I think that the principal should have recognized all of the students as the future leaders of the community, but the students may have been overly sensitive too: the assembly was to recognize inductees.

Paul C said...

Too bad the principal wasn't more inconclusive. "All of you at the assembly and on stage have the potential to be future leaders contributing to the good of society."

Great idea to allow your students to express how they felt in a structured way. There is no better motivator than to write with a purpose.

A Keeper's Jackpot said...

I was surprised to read that the induction was done at a school assembly. When I was inducted, it was in the evening - maybe everyone was invited but attendance certainly wasn't required. I think the principal was very insensitive to make that statement, especially in the presence of all the students that weren't accepted. It doesn't necessarily take a straight-A brain to be a leader, have a future, or make a difference in the world - just a big heart and desire to do your best.

That being said, I wouldn't suggest lowering the standards to get into the NHS, for that would take away the value and make it less of a valuable accomplishment. However, there should be more opportunities for recognition of those that try just as hard, if not harder, but just can't get the above average grades. But such is life. This is a good learning experience, as this won't be the first time in their life that they see people that may not work as hard as them or contribute as much as they do to the world get high recognition. I'm sure they will see similar situations at college, work, and elsewhere.

Cathy Jo Nelson said...

I agree that the assembly should be after school and optional--even for those getting recognized. My son's school does this, and one year he opted out of the recognition, calling it silly, and saying the only ones who care are the parents. Quite honestly, it is a prejudiced group in that there are many students who may not be academically gifted, but are gifted in other areas. Is there an arts honor society? Is an assembly held school wide to recognize arts achievements? what about sports achievements? One of the things I have stressed to my own children, kids in my school, and even educators i work with--we ALL bring gifts to the table.

Anonymous said...

As someone who attended this assembly and has mixed feelings I think some of the comments are very interesting. First, though it was not the principal who made that comment, but another person as well as I can remember. I too agree that maybe it is not the place to have assembly in school. I know when I was in high school the induction was held in the evening and the new inductees were introduced at the end of the year awards assembly. With that being said, should we then do away with that assembly because not all students are honored. I know it is difficult when you are not a student that is honored, but why should it be taken away from the students who truly deserve it. Also, so much is done at the school to help and encourage students that struggle that the students that excel are often forgotten. Do we then discontinue pep rallies because they focus on the students who are athletically inclined? It is a great topic of debate and I am not sure that I believe this assembly should be held during the day, but I do agree that the administrators should be cautious of their words.

diane said...

Thank you for all your thoughtful comments. Rather than respond here, I've written a new posting, Applause, with my thoughts on the issue.