Feb 27, 1997 Parents' letter to Kiwanis Int'l

Mr. Monroe T. Gilmour
P.O. Box 1341
Black Mountain, N.C. 28711

Dear Mr. Gilmour,

Thank you for your interest in our involvement with the Kiwanis Club Terrific Kids program. At Hillandale, Terrific Kids is sponsored by the Hendersonville Kiwanis Club. Mr. Marvin Larson has been our Kiwanis representative the four years I have been principal here. He has been most cordial and has faithfully arrived on time for each assembly. The Kiwanis Clubs are to be commended for their efforts and their obvious desire to celebrate childhood.

I am enclosing a brief summary of how the Terrific Kids program is conducted at Hillandale, as I described to you on the phone.

Prior to my assignment as principal, I was the Community Schools Coordinator in the central office of Henderson County Schools for eleven years. Before that I served as Instructional Supervisor with Hyde County Schools and Principal of Ocracoke Island School from 1973-81. I first became aware of the Terrific Kids program while working in the central office of the Henderson County Schools and that awareness came from an inquiry from a couple of mothers concerning the program and the criteria for selection. One parent felt badly for her son who had never received the award whereas her daughter had. The mother knew her son was a good boy and a good student and simply couldn't figure out what he had to do to qualify as a "Terrific Kid". She felt that he was suffering, although silently. Another parent reported that her son said, as an explanation as to why he had not received the recognition, "I guess I'm not Terrific Kid material, mom." They were both too embarassed to approach the teachers or principal. I offered to investigate.

My inquiry determined that there were no guidelines other than those established by each particular school and its principal. I was surprised to learn that all children weren't, as a rule, recognized - to this I replied, "I thought all kids were terrific." The response, attributed to a principal, was, "If all the kids get it (the Terrific Kids recognition), then it won't mean anything." Unfortunately, this must be a common premise and reflects a curious and, to me, disappointing adult attitude. I doubt you will ever hear this statement from a child - I never have; nor have I seen any disappointment on the faces of the children, their parents or teachers as the recognition is presented to each child individually and personally as we do here at Hillandale.

Anyhow, this inquiry certainly gave me an opportunity to formulate my own philosophy about how I would implement the program should the opportunity arise. Since its introduction in Black Mountain, I imagine here have been many different interpretations of the program. Some schools may focus on specific character traits and try to recognize those students who are exhibiting those traits, such a T for truthfulness, or R for responsibility, etc. But probably most simply pick a few "deserving" students from each class. The others get left out and may never get recognized. I would also worry about record-keeping difficulties, such as pupil and school staff transfers, promotions, retentions, and other situations.

I believe this program certainly has good intentions and is fine for those students who do get recognized. But unlike academic grades, it may not be clear to students what is required to be recognized as "terrific" and how they can go about becoming "terrific". I feel that people are generally more critical of themselves than of others, and for the many children who are left unrecognized, who are left feeling un-terrific, this omission would simply be an official confirmation of those painful self-doubts and insecurities. As brief participants of human life here on earth, which is wonderful but all too often hard, we should encourage when possible and lift each other up. Children need an abundance of affirmation, encouragement and praise in order to thrive, even survive.

I hope these remarks will be of assistance to you as you work with schools and the Kiwanis Club regarding these issues.

Please contact me if you need further information. Since we have completed our TK assemblies for this year, you are more than welcome to join us next fall for a first-hand impression.

Best wishes.

Steve Norwood

(NOTE: See Principal Norwood's description of how the program works on the attached sheet. In our telephone conversation, Principal Norwood explained that there is an assembly for each class level early in the year during which ever child receives the TK award and has the good abilities the teachers wrote about him her read publicly . At first glance, it appears to me that this way of doing it eliminates the problems about timing (some getting early, some late) and the rejection/sibling issues (since everyone gets it) and reinforces an expectation of "terrific-ness" in everyone. The TK program becomes a celebration of children and a contributor toward creating an atmosphere (and hopefully a self-fulfilling prophesy) at the school that we are all terrific. M. Gilmour 1/28/97)

Hillandale Elementary School
900 West Blue Ridge Road
East Flat Rock, North Carolina 28726
Phone: 704-697-4782 Fax: 704-697-4661