Baby Duck and the Honking Big Trophy

Thank goodness the school holidays have started. Last week I watched about 400 children individually receive certificates at a series of interminable end-of-year assemblies. When the kids were younger I used to think Hell was being forced to watch Wiggles videos for all eternity, but now I know better. Hell is listening to 400+ scrambling attempts by the teachers to dream up something unique and congratulatory to say, and watching 400+ little people shaking hands with their teacher, when the only little people you care to watch are your own. And really, I’d give up seeing them get their certificates in a heartbeat if it meant I didn’t have to sit through the other 397.

Oh for the good ole days when only the kids who actually achieved something got a prize. Now no one must be left out. All well and good for the little ones, I suppose, but honestly, kids aren’t stupid. By the time they get to primary school they’re awake to the whole “if everyone’s special then no one is” thing.

Yes, I know I sound grumpy. Sorry! But I challenge you to sit through the hours of assemblies I have lately and not feel a trifle tetchy. Because the ducklings are all at different stages they received their certificates at three separate, though pretty much identical, assemblies. I heard all the speeches three times. Though it could have been worse – I felt sorry for the principal, who had to look happy and interested the whole time.

By the time I got to Baby Duck’s assembly, which was last, I was so over the whole thing I was like Scrooge sitting up going “bah, humbug!” at the cute little kindergarteners and their off-key singing. Fortunately Baby Duck made up for the lack of maternal excitement by skipping across the stage when he won an extra award as well as his certificate. He held his big blue trophy up above his head to show the world, beside himself with glee.

But oh! the irony! This is the boy who asked me every morning if it was the weekend yet. The boy who suggested nearly every day that it might be better to stay home in case he gave his classmates his (fictional) cough/sore throat/runny nose. (And then gave me looks that managed to be tragic and filthy at the same time when I told him he had to go anyway.) The boy who said school was boring because they made him work.

What was the trophy for? “Most creative attempts to get out of attending school”? “Best dramatic performance in the dying swan category”? No – “Outstanding Effort”.

He’s so proud of himself. It’s like none of that resistance and tears ever happened. He’s decided he’d quite like to win it again next year. I’ll have to remind him of that next time he sits on his bed in his pyjamas for half an hour when he’s supposed to be getting dressed for school. Can’t win any trophies if you don’t go.

Maybe they should give out awards at those assemblies to the parents instead. That would make things more interesting. “Most Patient Homework Supervisor”. “Most Creative School Lunches”. “Most Persistent in Dealing with Reluctant School-goers”.

I’d be a shoo-in for that last one.

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4 Responses to Baby Duck and the Honking Big Trophy

  1. Jaye Patrick says:

    This brings to mind Mr Incredible’s comment to Elasti-girl: “We keep finding ways to celebrate mediocrity”.

    What’s the point of trying to excel if you’re going to be rewarded for doing just enough?

    The education system’s idea of not using negative marks – so the little blossoms’ self-esteem isn’t harmed – or the idea of giving everyone a reward whether a benchmark has been reached or not, gives kids a sense of entitlement without doing the work. As it filters through to society, that sense won’t change and what a shock to these kids when they actually have to work for reward?

    Every kid has potential, has talent in their own special field. Incentivise them to succeed – they shouldn’t be grouped into a herd and collectively congratulated for simply attending school.

  2. Marina says:

    Yes, the whole “work first, get rewarded later” thing does seem a foreign concept to the ducklings at times. I’m not sure the current “everyone’s a winner” thinking in education is doing the kids any favours. Self-esteem is important, but they need to learn eventually that in the real world rewards only come when you’ve actually done something worth esteeming. As I say, I can see why they want to issue blanket rewards to the littlies, but I think by primary school they’re old enough for a little dose of reality.

  3. mabel says:

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  4. Marina says:

    Thanks, Lucy. It’s always nice to hear from people — I like to know someone’s actually reading!