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All Students Who Reach for the Stars are Winners!

As the school year wraps up, it is important to take some time to celebrate the many successes and accomplishments your child has achieved over the past school year.

Today’s children are being raised in a society that operates under two approaches to ‘WINNING’ which can be confusing to students.

The more traditional approach is evident where awards such as the Oscars, Pulitzer and Nobel Peace Prizes, and the Order of Canada are widely recognized as symbols of success and achievement.  The objective of this concept of ‘winning’ runs throughout society and is also prevalent in our schools, with trophies and medals awarded to students each year for everything from academics, sports, music, good citizenship, and much more. Our society is so focused on aiming for prize winning and public recognition, that many people often choose to narrow their creative focus just to fit the competition criteria.  Unfortunately, winners are often measured by popularity over innovation and uniqueness of endeavour. 

The second approach to ‘winning’ is a more progressive approach which emphasizes the achievement of intrinsic awards for students.  The development of these intrinsic rewards begins with stars and stickers and, as the child matures, the rewards evolve into the use of powerful words of praise and recognition.  This progresses into asking students how they feel about their efforts.  In this way, students learn to celebrate their own unique achievements and personal best efforts, as well as recognizing excellence based on individual talents.

In this manner, students are encouraged to widen their creative range and interests instead of narrowing or constricting their sights to fit or adhere to specific prize criteria.

This approach strengthens a student’s confidence, and fosters increased self-esteem which serves as a foundation to stretch well beyond traditional pre-set boundaries and societal expectations.

The truest test of excellence is apparent when a person’s creativity and innovation in their particular field of work is combined with their personal core values. This results in bringing unique approaches and techniques to the forefront or to the workplace. These ‘winners’ are the true heroes who possess the focused passions that make a real difference.

At most schools in June, 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 parents 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!

Parents need to be more aware of the limitations and subjectivity in the ‘winner takes all’ concept of achievement, as well as recognize the longer term, and powerful effect on their child when ‘winning’ enhances individual self pride and self esteem in having achieved at their personal best!

The truest, long term kind of award of excellence involves the intrinsic pride one develops in having excelled.  It is this inner pride sets the foundation for these confident young individuals to go out into the world and reach for their own stars based on who they are, their passions, and creativity.