As I was driving my daughter to school this morning, she was explaining to me the tradition of “Shout-Outs” instituted at the school a few years ago. My children have all gone to the same sweet elementary school in the rural outskirts of Charlottesville. With a student body of fewer than 250, the school is able to make community building a regular part of the curriculum, and they take this mission seriously. One Friday a month, a school-wide morning meeting is held during which students and faculty gather together in the gym to do a special greeting and a team-building activity. The fifth graders read out some announcements, and then the assembly concludes with “shout-outs,” which is when a few teachers take over the microphone to call out compliments that they’ve prepared in advance for a select group of kids.

“So give me an example of a shout-out,” I asked my daughter.

“Well, it’s usually something like, ‘Thank you for being kind,’ or ‘Thank you for helping the teacher.’ But, every single person is supposed to get at least one shout-out every year. One year, there was this kid, who I guess wasn’t, well…(there was a pause as she searched for a way to phrase it nicely)…the greatest and his shout-out was, ‘Thank you for putting the caps back on the pens!’ And another time it was, ‘Thank you for remembering to cover your mouth when you sneezed.'”

I started cackling like a demented witch.

“How about, ‘Thank you for remembering to wipe after you went to the bathroom?,'” I asked. “Or…’Thank you for not murdering a single person all last week?!'”

I began chortling and heaving in paroxyms of unseemly mirth. Tears began streaming from my eyes.

My daughter, who goes to a kind, nurturing school where they have a  shout-out for every single kid, even the ones who aren’t the greatest, solicitously asked me, “Mommy, are you ok?”

I was, but my behavior clearly revealed the fact that I went to a school that hadn’t capitalized on the civilizing influence of shout-outs.

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