November, 2010

Students Who Reach for the Stars are All Winners

Today’s children are being raised in a society that recognizes two approaches to winning. An example of the traditional approach of winning is the distribution of awards such as the Oscars, Pulitzer, and Nobel Peace Prizes, etc., which are widely recognized as symbols of success and achievement. This concept of winning runs throughout society and is also prevalent in our schools, with trophies and medals awarded to students each year for academics, sports, music, good citizenship, and much more.The second approach to ‘winning’ is a more progressive approach which emphasizes the achievement of intrinsic rewards for students.  The development of these rewards begins with stars and stickers and, as the child matures, the rewards evolve into the use of powerful words of praise and recognition, as well as asking students how they feel about their efforts.

In this way, students learn to celebrate their own unique achievements and personal best efforts, and to recognize excellence based on individual talents. This encourages them to widen their creative range and interests, instead of narrowing their sights to conform to specific ‘prize criteria’. This approach also strengthens a student’s confidence, and fosters increased self-esteem, which serves as a foundation to stretch well beyond traditional boundaries and societal expectations.
A genuine test of excellence is apparent when an individual’s creativity and innovation in their particular field of work is combined with their personal core values. These ‘winners’ possess the focused passions that make a real difference.
At most schools, individual students are still recognized and presented with a variety of achievement awards. This practice serves several objectives, including:
a) helping children understand this aspect of a traditional society; however, it does perpetuate the concept of winning and losing;
b) satisfying those who expect this type of recognition, although the selection criteria is often subjective and provides for only one ‘winner’;
c) helping children understand that, in reality, everyone who has achieved at their very best level is indeed a winner!
The ‘winner takes all’ concept of achievement has a powerful effect on children, especially when a child is not recognized for an award, even though they have achieved and excelled at their own personal best. How a family values winning will influence a child’s attitude about winning. What is it to win? Is it seen only as a competition against others, or is it to achieve your own personal best?
The most fulfilling reward of excellence involves the intrinsic pride one experiences when having excelled. It is this inner pride that sets the foundation for these confident young individuals to go out into the world and reach for their own stars.

Linda Sweet  M.S. Ed.
Founder and Director, Glenburnie School
Pre-School to Grade 8
Providing a progressive and innovative private school education