Choosing a school portrait package has to be one of the most complex tasks required of parents.
Back when I was a kid, we were given about three packages to choose from. If you were unhappy with your smile or the lighting in your finished photo, you signed up for a retake. Recently, I got to choose from 48 different packages, each slightly different (organized using a system I have yet to figure out).
It’s not just sizes and quantities of photos that requires analysis. Other choices include the closeness of the pose, the background color, and whether or not you want a name and year printed on it. And for an extra $10.00, you can get basic retouching which removes blemishes. I want to meet the parents who choose premium retouching for an extra $20. This option removes blemishes, whitens teeth, evens skin tone, removes scars, and removes fly away hair. Seriously?
Sometimes I wish we could return to the days of fewer options, like when I was a kid. You may not have loved your school photo at the time but you could look back at it years later and realize it was just a snapshot in time. I still laugh at my own school portraits, like the one from 1977, where I thought my long hair parted down the middle resembled Marsha Brady. (It didn’t). Or my freshman year photo with braces and acne. Poor me.
Options are a good thing, in theory. Picky eaters, for example, fare better at restaurants that have a wide variety of options on their menus. Cable TV offers movies and shows to please anyone’s tastes.
And teens are very lucky today, with so many options at high school. There are sports teams and clubs for nearly any activity a student could desire. If a club doesn’t exist at the local high school, a student can create one. Electives are plentiful and have the potential of opening kids’ eyes to future careers.
Options are also creating super achievers. Students who are willing to spend extra time and money can improve just about any skills they want. For example, they can pay an hourly rate for private music lessons at the high school. This increases their chances of being accepted into an honors level class. They can pay to play on a private club sports team which promises to increase skills and competition levels. SAT scores are likely to increase if students are willing to pay a fee to be tutored in how to take this exam.
When I was in high school, if you had decent grades and had one or two extra-curricular activities you were considered “well-rounded.” I fell into that category because I was a good (although not exceptional) student, played soccer and played in the high school band. I was a mediocre soccer player at best and a decent clarinetist who never considered seeking private lessons. By today’s standards, I would be a very unremarkable high school graduate. Yet, I was accepted into decent colleges which are now fairly selective.
Today, it’s normal be an exceptional student (notice I didn’t say good) as well as a highly skilled athlete and perhaps great in even another area: music, art, public speaking, government, etc. Being good suddenly doesn’t seem good enough. As my daughter fills out her college applications, she wonders if she will fare well in admissions counselors’ eyes. After all, In high school she’s been good, but not exceptional.
Let me explain good. My daughter has taken a mixture of college prep classes and more challenging, honors level classes. She has been cut from a volleyball team (because freshmen players who show potential trump junior players who are good but not exceptional). She will (hopefully) play a fourth year of high school lacrosse. She has a beautiful singing voice (much to our surprise and delight) and has developed confidence as an onstage performer in various singing groups and in drama club. She holds a part-time job and volunteers in various activities at our church. She has shown more courage and resilience in her four high school years than I ever have in my life.
What I try to remind myself (and my daughter) is that the world needs people with all sorts of skill sets. Some people write well. Others are math geniuses. Some are great listeners. Still others explain things well. Some entertain well or decorate well or argue a point well. Many high school students don’t have a clue what they do well. Yes, there is a large number of students who excel these days, but there are many who, for various reasons, don’t have it all figured out. They eventually will, with some experimentation and perseverance.
Everyone has the opportunity to do well in life. Everyone has the ability to change their path in life, too, if their choices don’t align with their happiness. Just as acne goes away and braces come off, different (and often better) opportunities present themselves, I say embrace each and every stage, blemishes and all. Each stage is an opportunity to learn and change and grow.
- Few details emerge about Mass. teacher’s killing (sacbee.com)