Editor’s note: This week Poway resident Barry Cronin joins us as a monthly political columnist.
Cronin was raised in the Boston area and retired as a colonel after 30 years in the Marine Corps. He has a long background in law enforcement and now works as the deputy police chief at MCAS Miramar. He earned a master’s degree from National University. He is a past commander of Poway VFW Post 7907. His hobbies include “visiting my daughters, buying stuff at Home Depot, walking the dogs, going to Padres games, playing my bagpipes, and doing exactly what my wife tells me to do.”
By Barry Cronin
Perhaps school systems should consider including disappointment as a mandatory subject within their respective core curriculum. For the sake of this discussion, let us refer to it simply as “Disappointment 101.”
A few weeks back, some of the mainstream media carried a brief story about a middle school principal back East who canceled the annual honors awards ceremony because he believed it excluded otherwise hardworking students who just could not quite meet the standard. In his own words, “the honors night, which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients’ families, can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade point average.”
The event took place in Ipswich, a quaint little, picture postcard New England seaside village on the beautiful Massachusetts north shore. Having grown up not too far from there, I was naturally intrigued by the story and decided to check into it further, reading the local version of events via the “Wicked Local” news section of the Ipswich Chronicle newspaper. (Interesting note, “wicked” is one of those magical Boston words, applicable in all situations, and I was pleased to see they still use it.)
Not surprisingly, there has been both positive and negative reaction to the principal’s decision. I was somewhat hesitant myself to summarily criticize Principal Fabrizio’s decision, as some have done. I hold educators in high regard and rightfully so, and the man obviously possesses the academic credentials, experience, and talent to rise to the important position of school principal. I do think, however, that his decision, while noble in intention, did perhaps erase an opportunity to teach another one of life’s very important lessons, that being how to handle disappointment.
It is a simple fact that we all encounter many disappointments in life, some grander than others. Not everyone is going to make the honor roll. Not everyone will make the varsity team. Those are the facts. But neither is it the end of the world. Not to sound cavalier, but the sooner and more often one learns that lesson, the better off in life one will be. Instead, perhaps the true measure of success, the passing grade if you will, is how well people respond to that disappointment, even these young middle school kids.
An old Irish proverb comes to mind. Translated, it says “God never closes one door without opening another.” The principle applies, whether one is a person of faith or not.
We read about people all the time who cannot seem to cope with disappointment. Some lash out with anger and violence. Others seek escape through drugs, addiction, and other self-destructive behaviors. Some simply withdraw, quit trying, and accept mediocrity. Failing grades all, in both school and in life.
The good student of life simply tries harder, again and again, doing the best he can. And if all those efforts still do not meet the mark, the student must accept that it was not meant to be and seek out that other open door, satisfied that at least he gave it his very best effort.
Ironically, in his effort to spare the feelings of all the other students, probably the only ones hurt by the principal’s decision were those students who did make the honor roll in the first place. I would wager that they are all “wicked” disappointed in that.
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