If you read my columns on a regular basis, you know that I mention how time passes so quickly that it is hard for me to keep up. Well, 24 hours, just one day last week, made a tremendous change in my life. However, this time it was not just time, but the events that happened, creating change.

Last Thursday morning when I awoke, I was excited and on fire, because for the first time in many years my son was being recognized for improving his grades, and about two weeks prior, I received an email inviting me to attend an assembly to witness him receive recognition for his newly found achievement, but to keep the recognition a surprise.

For some families, this might be a regular occurrence, but in our family it is not. We don’t get the opportunity to celebrate grades often, although we spend a lot of time celebrating determination and perseverance. So to color my story a little brighter, you understand my excitement about his improvement.

Now, here is where I take a big step because I have to be vulnerable to tell the story, and being vulnerable can be tough; however, vulnerability is a part of growth and change, and we need change in our educational communities. By sharing our story, I hope someone with children or grandchildren will take heed in recognizing that children need advocates.

Looking forward to attending the school assembly, I told my work manager that I would need to leave work early that afternoon in order to meet the rest of my family at my son’s school. Only an act of God was going to keep us away, and we have been praying a very long time for this turnaround. I left work shortly before noon, and ate my lunch in the car to arrive early and get a good seat, and I also patted myself on the back for keeping a surprise, which is very rare!

After being seated in the gym, I looked around to take it all in; remember, this is my first time attending the assembly recognizing good grades. As I scan the gym, I am tickled inside, because my husband and daughter are not there yet, and I am usually the late one. Parents get front row seats on the gym floor so they can see the children’s faces as they are called out of the bleachers. One parent makes mention to me that she likes the old set up better. I don’t respond, because I have no visual to which to compare the new set up.

At this point I looked at my cell phone noticing that we have about 15 minutes until show time; I look around the gym, but I don’t see my son. But I waved the two late birds over to where I was sitting. My daughter pointed to my son, who is nervously walking up behind me. I know my children. I can look in their eyes and see sickness, pain, guilt, joy, happiness, and this time I looked in my son’s eyes and saw nervousness and sheer fright.

He leaned over to me and said, “They aren’t going to allow me to attend this assembly.” He explained to me that he didn’t know he was to receive the award for improved grades, and earlier at lunch, for the sake of time, they gave out the perfect attendance awards which he receives all the time. He said he goes to school every day, but nothing ever changes for him, and he decided to tear off the coupons for free stuff stapled to the certificate, and pitch the Perfect Attendance Certificate in the garbage.

His teacher saw him toss it, and because of his rude and ungrateful behavior, the principal made the decision not to allow him to attend the bigger assembly. He was told that if he could not appreciate one certificate, he would not be allowed to receive the others during the assembly. He told me he had to leave the gym, and promptly return to the office.

After I chastised my 14-year-old boy about the consequences of making a quick un-thought-out decision, my husband told me to calm down, because that’s what 14-year-old boys do. He said sometimes they don’t even know what they are doing themselves. He said we have to work with him to learn how to think before he acts. My daughter shook her head, and just said “unbelievable.” I broke down and cried. Tears streamed down my son’s face; he returned to the office as told.  

I have spent quite a few years working on becoming a better person. This was the time to put some of my Bible study lessons and life coaching into action. We all left the gym; my husband and daughter started on their hour-long journey back home. Yes, we live an hour away, reason being is another article, but things are the way that they are.

I walked around the parking lot to gather my thoughts, then decided to run in before the assembly started to speak to his teacher. Surely there is some mistake. She tells me the same story. I made a mad dash over to the principal, and she validated it all.

I quickly moved out of the way because the program had begun. Names were being called, and as children were excited for themselves and their peers, they screamed and yelled. The gym, the building was truly living up to its expectations. I can imagine that during its construction and design, some of the builders imagined days like this with so much noise and excitement.

And I walked away from it all, even though I felt sad and disappointed, I held my head up high; I was still proud of my boy! I told him again how wrong his actions were, and that he has to do better thinking critically. I told him if I was principal, I would have used his reckless behavior as a lesson in respecting accolades, and how your character determines who you are. I would have encouraged him to be a better person. I would not have let the assembly put in place to promote success be used as a punishment. But I am not the principal.

I am and will always be an advocate for my children. I will continue to be there creating lessons to learn from poor decisions, poor judgment and bad behavior, I will continue to stand tall beside my son when he fails a test, but encourage him to push past the pain and make sure he works harder to do better and to be better. I did, however, meet with the principal to voice my concerns and thoughts.

I will continue to hold myself accountable as a parent, hold my children accountable for their actions and behavior, and hold their schools accountable to providing an equitable, high quality education. We all make mistakes, and it takes a strong, vulnerable and fair person to own, learn and grow from our mistakes.

T.A. Jones is a regular contributor to The Warren Record and the author of “A Summer with No Ice Cream.” She can be reached at terryalstonjones@gmail.com.