Feeling hung up… (Maybe you were too…!)

Last week in the Netherlands, nearly 200,000 kids got the call. The call from their high school mentor telling them that they could graduate….or not.

If you got good news, you hung out the Dutch flag with the schoolbag attached to it, to show your neighborhood that you have a graduate at home.

However, I did not get that memo when I first came to the Netherlands.

I saw all of these book bags and flags hanging outside in the summer, and after a week or so I said to my boyfriend, ‘Maybe the book bags are dry now. Shouldn’t they be brought inside? And why don’t they put them in the dryer in the first place?’

My stunned boyfriend realized he had never told me about this unique Dutch tradition. As with all new things I experience, I made up a story in my head to make it make sense. And my story was, in my world, the absolute and most logical truthful explanation. The truth I believed in was that all the school bags were washed at the end of the year, and hung outside really high to dry as a symbol of completion of the academic year. And that the flag was there because it was the highest point they could find on every home and they wanted it to not touch the wall because they didn’t want the bricks of the houses to get wet.

In Buffiland this, of course, makes perfect sense.

I also thought, however, that this was way too much effort, for no apparent reason, because the Dutchies could have just hung those bags out to dry on the wash line, or put them in the dryer.

Fast forward (and lots of patient boyfriend explanations later…):

My son got the call. His mentor spent a long time on the phone with him, going over his grades for every single subject, discussing his test scores and sharing the good news. He passed, and he was expected at school later that day to celebrate this milestone. I so love this personal approach and a genuine, heartfelt message from his mentor.

However, I know a lot of people didn’t get the news they were hoping for.

Many kids ‘failed’.

This means, to me (as someone who was miserable throughout high school and nearly dropped out as a result), that you did not fit into the academic system you were given.

You didn’t learn in the way things were taught.

This does not mean that you cannot learn. This means you could not learn in the way you were taught. And tested.

Their system was not your system. You didn’t fail school. School failed you.

Please remember, from someone who has learned so much more in life than at school, that it gets better. You are not a failure. You can’t put a number on integrity, motivation, kindness, compassion, or honesty. Those are the numbers that really matter.

Whether you hung out the flag or your laundry last week, I hope everyone felt (and continues to feel) valued and worthy.


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