Participation Trophy

4 min readJun 30, 2023
Photo by Miguel Henriques on Unsplash

“You have too many awards.”

I sat in the back of the room across from my 6th-grade language teacher who was slightly taller than me. Thin. White. And watched her mouth as the words dragged out of it. The same mouth out of which I eagerly watched and devoured every syllable that year. I wanted to know more. I wanted to be more. I was too much.

“There’s a new three award maximum, and you have four awards. See here,” she tilted the monitor towards me so I could see the grades. There I was with a 99 across from my name.

“You’re the highest average in my class,” she explained to me. “Since you have four awards, we have to give your award to the next highest.” She pointed to the names under me. “Both Suzie and Marcus have 98, and they don’t have as many awards, so they’ll both get the Language Arts award. Do you understand?”

I didn’t, but I nodded my head. I knew what happened to kids who didn’t agree with their teacher. But I also knew this was unfair. How could someone else take something that I worked for? That I earned?

I kept my head down for the rest of class. I was too smart. I lost my award because my curiosity exceeded the acceptable amount. I wanted to know too much. Be too much. I was being punished for it.

“I don’t know if any of your teachers have told you this,” my reading teacher prefaced. She stood at barely five feet with her small frame and wrinkly face. “But you have too many awards. As you may have heard last year a student received every award, and many parents felt that it was unfair to their children because they didn’t receive any. So, the administration capped the awards at three to make it more fair. You have four.”

Three now, I wanted to correct her, but I sat there and watched her as she tried to explain to me. “You have a hundred average in my class, but the award has to go to the next highest average which is” — she looked down at the white printout atop her green gradebook — “Suzie. She only has one award, and she has a 99 average.”

Wait, the same Suzie who got my language arts award? If she’s getting that one and this one, plus the one she has, she has three awards. I sat across from her bewildered.




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