As the end of year approaches, and Facebook is flooded with
pictures of children holding trophies and certificates, I want to acknowledge
the parents of the children who are not the ones being recognised. In a system
that measure success by A’s and first team appointments, number of goals
scored, provincial colours, and scrolls on blazers, please remember that there
are unrecognised achievements that bring an equal, if not greater sense of
pride, and I want to acknowledge those.
So this is a shout out to the kids who struggled every
day to get to where they got to by the end of their year.
To the girl who dug deep each day to find the courage
to get up and face a school where she was bullied, or surrounded by peers who
found her weird and teased her, but managed to get there every day, congratulations
To the boy who, no matter how many extra lessons, how many
hours of perseverance, or how many E’s on their test papers, managed to achieve
a hard-earned C and was super thrilled with that, bravo.
To the teen who is struggling with body image, but put on a
brave face every day and smiled through the uncertainty, you’re amazing.
To the artist who creates amazing work, yet crashes and
burns on their maths exams – you have talent that can’t be measured by a
standard test and we are in awe.
To the musical prodigy who can’t learn and recall when the
war started, who was president when, and what the capital of Nepal is, your musical
ability makes our hearts sing.
To the ADD student whose brain functions so fast that
writing a coherent essay is just not your thing, you will change the world and we
are grateful for minds like yours.
To the linguist who can master language and pronunciation, can
speak in many languages, but can’t spell to save his life – you have a gift and
will find your place in the world.
To the child who can never go to a sleep over because they
are afraid of wetting their bed and ashamed their peers may discover their
secret, it will end, your time will come and you are brave.
To the dancer whose body understands music and seems to take
on a life of its own, but takes forever to read and needs extra time for tests,
you are mesmerising.
To the child who has to bravely get up and go to a separate
venue to write tests, while everyone else sits in the same room, but does so
with your head held high, we salute your courage.
To the child who did not pass the year, and has to valiantly
watch your peers go up a grade while you face the embarrassment of having to
stay back a year – you will be fine and you will thrive.
To the child who freezes and feels physically ill when
forced to stand up and speak in front of the class, yet has the most amazing
empathy, you will always be loved because people feel better for having you in
To all of you who face challenges that mean you will
probably never be recognised by traditional measures, remember to hold yourself
to a different standard. Remember that the talents you do have, are unique and
amazing, and you should feel proud with or without a certificate or award. Remember
that school is possibly not where you will shine, but shine you can.
Remember that these tests and exams will measure you on one
level, but that they cannot tell us everything about you.
And to their parents, as you sit there and maybe feel a
little sadness or envy that it is never your child on stage, celebrate their
uniqueness. No one has ever asked me in ‘real life’ if I got a certificate for
diligence, or a scroll for academics, or where I placed in the grade.
No one has ever said, “When I grow up I want to be the kid
who had the most certificates and awards when I was at school.” And no one,
ever, has been remembered for a piece of paper that tells us how amazing they
are. In the real world, we are measured by different standards, and all of us
can succeed in our own ways.
So whatever your child achieves, celebrate them, but more than
that, teach them to celebrate themselves by their own standards. If they are
the dux scholar, let them be proud of their own work ethic, not the certificate.
If they do win sportsman/ woman of the year, ensure they are proud that they
did their best, not that they beat everyone else. If they scraped through when
no one was sure that they would, be sure that they see that as the accomplishment
it is because of the work they put in.
The world can be judgemental
enough without feeling like they aren’t good enough because they are holding
themselves up to ‘traditional’ measures. Instil in them a sense of intrinsic self-worth
and motivation, and it won’t matter if they stand on that stage or not, get a
medal or scroll or an honours blazer or not, because they will always be honest
with themselves about their own efforts and successes, and their sense of value
will come from within.