This week’s award for not snarking over praising kids…
Every week a newsletter is emailed from my five-year-old’s public school letting parents know which students have received merit certificates from the principal.
Recipients from kindergarten classes in recent weeks have included Plaitsy Bobsocking*, Pipsqueak Toothmissing and Willful Bumworder who have been recognised for, among other things, “improved listening”, “trying to complete their work on time” and “teaching the class about finger spaces”.
Students from older grades are acknowledged for citizenship, efforts in modern Greek, and – my personal favourite – exhibiting enthusiasm and maturity towards fractions and decimals.
The fine detail in these little cardboard honours are heartbreakingly sweet. They also offer some desperately-needed insight into what happens in our kids’ lives between 9am and 3pm. (Little known educational fact: it is physically impossible for a child to answer the “what happened at school today?” question with anything other than an irritated “nothing”.)
Unfortunately, some cantankerous commentators disapprove of such enthused positive reinforcement in schools. These killjoys seem to think the best way to encourage L-plate learners is to flog them regularly while assessing every possible aspect of their performance numerically.
“Get out of my sight, Jones. You’ve only scored three out of a possible 11 marks for sitting up straight, and your percentages for handling apple wedges during ‘crunch and sip’ breaks are way below the NAPLAN average. Consider yourself suspended from kindergarten indefinitely.”
But given that most schools have plenty of (non corporal) sticks to balance the merit certificate carrots, I’m a huge fan of the delightfully specific primary school encouragement award. In fact, I’d like to see them extended to parents.
Those of us with kindergarten-aged children could compete for prizes such as “showing courage during school drop-offs” and “only sobbing uncontrollably once the kids are inside the classroom”.
Gold stars could also be awarded to mums and dads for:
- staying calm and level-headed during the recent nit epidemic;
- admitting they had to Google the key pedagogical tool of “finger spaces”; and
- showing good manners and making an effort to chat pleasantly with “differently personality-ed” parents at school functions (even if the latter won’t shut up about their children’s superior abilities with sight words, flugelhorn solos and perpetual motion machine invention).
In the meantime, the rest of us should receive runner-up, anti-Stepford encouragement accolades if, on most days, we simply manage to get our kids to school with something vaguely approximating a school uniform on their bodies and something roughly associated with food in their unmatching lunch Tupperware.
* Names have been changed in the interests of privacy and authorial immaturity.
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