Not so many years ago as a new Deputy Principal I had some awards to distribute to children on Assembly. I called the children out and told the Assembly how well they had done, and to my horror watched children very reluctantly stand up and come to the front - some had to be cajoled by their teachers and one flatly refused. A couple of boys stood uncomfortably trying to hide their faces behind too long fringes and surf burned hair. And so was the culture of this school - it's not cool to achieve, to stand out in front of the group, and learning was not publicly congratulated. For these children, it was more like public humiliation. Over the years, I've seen this a lot - especially in Queensland. And even though I never stopped trying, it was hard to change
But not so at Peregian Springs...
Our NAPLAN results arrived in the school last week and over the last few days I've been congratulating children (and whole classes) whom I've noticed have done exceptionally well. By exceptionally well, I mean not just those children who performed above the average scores in the state and nationally, but also, and probably more importantly, those children who have made faster improvement than expected.
In the Drop Off Zone the other day, I said to a boy from Year 5 - 'Congratulations on your NAPLAN results. Mum and Dad are going to be very pleased when they see your report. Good job!' The other boys around him clapped him on the back and echoed my congratulations, and this little bloke was just beaming. Then before Assembly on Friday I did the same thing with one of Year 7 boys. His teacher was there and so were his friends - a risky environment to applaud the learning efforts of an adolescent boy! 'Well done, *, on your NAPLAN results. You have made a huge leap in your learning since Year 5. Good job!' He looked kind of surprised, and his teacher joined in saying 'Yes, I saw that too.' And again all the boys around him nodded and one shook his hand.
This is what I love about our kids. They highly value learning and they readily applaud achievement - their own and the achievements of others. They happily offer their congratulations and are genuinely pleased when one of their mates does well, no matter what the area. In a country that regularly cuts down its tall poppies and where there is a culture of not standing out from the crowd, it is exceptional to see children breaking the mold and raise the 'cool factor' of doing well, of doing your best, and being pleased with your efforts.