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Posts Tagged ‘Youth’

A Matter of Merit


My daughter doesn’t know it but apparently she will be receiving a merit award tomorrow at the assembly. My lovely wife commented that teachers make sure that every student in the class gets at least one each year.

That wasn’t my experience at school! I sat through nearly 500 assemblies at school and I never received a merit award, a congratulatory sticker, a trophy or a word of public acknowledgement. I even remember buying my year three teacher a present (I think it was soap) two days before an assembly to ensure I was “on the radar”; unfortunately, it didn’t work 😦 … I hope I didn’t spend much on the soap.

I was involved in a few sports, I cleaned out the pigeon holes, attended after-school recitals, was part of the drama team, debate team, chess team, I stacked chairs, did my homework and helped the canteen ladies carry heavy boxes … BUT………NOTHING!

Those who know me will muse that I am more than compensating for this lack of foundational attention. I could launch into a diatribe about how mediocrity is celebrated and awarded but I don’t want to do that in the context of MY GIRL getting her merit award tomorrow for (clearly) exceptional excellence.

I’m only sad that the young people of today will miss out on the opportunity to be bitter and resentful about their schooling the way that I am.  🙂

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The OTHER Balance of Power, Australian Youth!


I love hearing of ‘firsts’, especially from our young people. Lately we have heard a few! Jessica Watson and Wyatt Roy are the latest to hit our screens and it is exciting to truly celebrate their accomplishments. Over the last decade, youth success has been hijacked by (what I call) ”celebritism”; making celebrity out of random opportunity rather than accomplishment. 

I hate to think that there had been a void of prior talent but I was constantly frustrated at the examples presented to our kids as ‘successful’ by popular culture. “Big Brother” contestants who extend their 15 minutes of fame to years of fruitless folly or the Paris Hilton set who inherited their fame and generated on-going publicity by seeing how low they could set the bar.

As teachers, we often hear from students who are seeking to achieve at the “lowest possible PASS point”. When teaching a class I recoil when I hear students ask “Have I written enough?”, “Do we have to read the book, can’t we just watch the movie?” or “What do we have to do this for?”  But, I take motivation seriously. I want my students to WANT to read, to WANT to do THEIR work, to aim BEYOND a mere PASS.

Of course, my lessons have to be engaging and captivating and motivating – which of course THEY ALWAYS ARE! But I also want to tap into this newer, richer, current (perhaps temporary?) fame that young Australians are generating.

We need to talk up THIS kind of success as a PRODUCT of big thinking and big dreams BUT ALSO of Big cost, Big risk, Big discipline, Big routines, Big skills, Big help and Big perseverance!

I want Wyatt and Jessica to ”speak” to my class so that my classes PRODUCE Wyatts and Jessicas.