Recognizing Tomorrow's Leaders Today
From: Dr. Marc Seligman - the National School Yearbook
Over the years I have seen many students put their heads on their desks and just drift through the middle school years. When I see them at the high school after they leave my building, they continue trying to be anonymous.
The excitement of the first day of school, the first ride on the school bus, the first school lunch dims as many children work their way through our school system. I do not want to point fingers or make broad assumptions, but the reality stares at all of us middle school teachers every day.
Not all students have given up, but many have.
Years ago, too many to remember, I had a student in my 9th grade homeroom. She was a talented artist, but her academic skills were lacking. All of the courses she was taking, with the exception of her art major, required talents that she lacked. Foreign language, math, science -- you name it, she was just barely passing. If you only counted art, however, she was a straight A student.
If she wanted to go to college, it would be a struggle, but she would be able to handle it.
Sometime after the second semester started, we had an in-service. During that meeting, we were told that the school district was going to change the way class rank was computed. Students in honors classes would receive 6 points for an A, 5 for a B, and 4 for a C. Students such as my homeroom artist, students who were already struggling academically, would receive 4 points for an A, 3 for a B, 2 for a C.
I saw that this was going to force marginal students lower in the class rank. I objected strongly and loudly. No one supported my protest.
We now have situations in which students who were always able to get into college can still do so, but students whose applications are marginal due to class rank will be cut. The incentive to stay in school is decreased and many of our talented and promising youngsters just move aimlessly through their high school years.
Recognition that can boost one's chance of getting into college is often not available to these students. The National Honor Society and the Who's Who in American Schools claim high standards. About one million students are in NHS and NJHS. Over 850,000 students are listed in the current edition of Who's Who. Although the number of people in these "highly selective" organizations is enormous, I doubt that many of those students fit the profile of my 9th grader of so many years ago. Until now, there was no way for these students to achieve national notice.
As I approach retirement, I still struggle with the lack of recognition for the many students in our schools who are artists, musicians, athletes, actors, singers, activists, dreamers, and potential leaders. I cringe when I think of the wasted potential that will doom many of these students to fringe existences. We need to recognize and celebrate the diversity that these students bring to our schools. We need to let these students know that they are important and that they can be anything they want to be. We need to let them see that they are part of a community larger than their hometown.
Using money saved for retirement, I have created the National School Yearbook. We will publish a yearbook annually of 9th graders who might be the leaders of tomorrow. We want to showcase the student from Podunk right next to the picture of the person who will win the Academy Award or the Nobel Prize sometime in the future. How wonderful to be recognized in a publication that rewards abilities not often rewarded!
We will select only about 1000 students for inclusion in this year's National School Yearbook. If you know of a 9th grader who might be a good candidate for this honor, have him/her download an application from our website: http://www.nationalschoolyearbook.org.
We will receive applications until late May or the beginning of June. The books will be printed over the summer and will be distributed to students in early September.