Hey all. So much has been going on over here Ricketts household, just busy busy. Today, our oldest is wrapping up his final day as an elementary school student and heading to middle school[eek]. Yesterday was awards day…our son brought home the 1st place ribbon from his Reading Olympics competition at the end of April and a certificate for band but he was extremely upset… those weren’t enough; he wanted the award he was working hard for the entire year – the Technology Award.
Our son wants to be a video game designer so this year he has spent a lot of time in class and during recess working on a video game he created using Scratch. The tech teacher also enlisted his help with testing new STEM gadgets and tech toys. So a few months ago he thought he was a shoo-in for the tech award but it was given to another student (one that worked on the school’s tv program). Bryce had a conversation with the teacher and she explained that she alternates her awards between tech and tv program each month.
Yesterday, he was passed up for the end of year tech award, it was given to the school’s TV program group- our son was frustrated, angry, sad and feeling discouraged. I stared at him as tears were streaming down his cheeks, face red, lip quivering, jaw clenched trying not to sob and fists balled up tight, all I could do was get up and hug him. I consoled him and in that moment I realized our son is
… The invisible boy.
You are probably thinking “where is she going with this?” or “how did she come to that from their son not getting an award?” I’ll tell you…
When there is a black kid in a prodominantly white school that kid falls into one of three categories. 1. The athlete (all around popular, outgoing, talented kid, lots of friends, teachers, staff and other parents know and like him), 2. The kid with behavioral issues (aggressive, angry, misbehaving, the stereotypical kid that many assume most black boys are, seen and heard and remembered but in a negative light), and 3. The invisible (not especially outgoing, not loud and boisterous, good student, same group of friends, blends in, doesn’t stand out and is easy to forget). Our son is the latter.
No matter how many times he was in his technology teacher’s classroom helping her and working on his coding and no matter that she talked about him with her other classes…when it came time to point out his hard work and dedication by awarding him in front of a crowd of his peers the teacher simply forgot he existed. In that moment he was invisible– nevermind the fact that he’s in the teacher’s room several times a week or that when he hadn’t been selected for the award before, he built up the courage to go to the teacher and have a conversation(big deal for our shy guy), but again that end goal that he worked so hard on was just out of his reach.
It was tough to see him break down, hard to encourage him when he felt like he was deserving and worked so hard. We teach our kids that hard work pays off but in this moment I had to explain to him that sometimes you can put in the hard work only to be overlooked and have someone else receive reward. But we know and his friends/classmates that have played his game know how hard he worked and they enjoyed what he created. Sometimes we have to take solace in knowing that just because we didn’t receive recognition we still worked hard and created something wonderful >> we are so proud of our son!
I will end on this note a black boy in a prodominantly white school has to work 5 times harder to get the same recognition as a white kid who just attends. He has to make sure he is always ON (on-task, on-point, on-time), he is extra polite, non-threatening and always willing to go the extra mile.
We will encourage him to keep pushing, working hard, never give up, and to know that he isn’t INVISIBLE.