Celebrating our students
Schools have traditionally celebrated successful people – often we think it’s only the people with the highest grades, the most creative, most athletic, best leader – but we often miss the whole point of why we celebrate these things.
It’s not necessarily because our students are born geniuses, don’t get me wrong – you’re all great, but possibly it’s more about how hard you work, mastery of learning and maybe for some it’s about the engagement with routine and repetitive practice. And then of course there’s the tough one: maybe it’s because you made enough good mistakes along the way to use these as a motivation for learning and growth, and you used each lesson learned to just get better and better every time you applied this to something new.
I loved Mrs Middendorp’s recent blog on growth mindset which summed it up well: the belief that we can get smarter, more intelligent or more talented through putting in time, effort and in getting help from others, and that in fact effort and perseverance is the game-changer for success.
A few thoughts on why we celebrate success:
- It feeds our mindset in learning: when we are acknowledged for success it feeds the messages in our mind that reinforce that we can achieve and we are making positive progress. It in turn encourages healthy risks and makes us really care about what we are doing and the quality of work we produce.
- It’s physically healthy: dopamine is released in the brain even when we anticipate achievement – and it makes us happy or excited and in turn can make us motivated toward further success.
- It can make learning explicit: it can actually help other people by showing what success looks like and provide a target to aim at.
- It’s about all of us: sharing the success of others is good for us too! Good for friendship and collegiality, good for culture – good to know others are behind you all the way.
So how can we encourage our students to care about success? Well let’s start with trying to shift the perception that success is only about the outcome or the destination. That’s partially true but success is also very much about the learning – the journey, with all its highs and lows, the possibilities and the challenges. It’s about building skills and each new, even small success that feeds into even greater success over time.
One of the great aspects of working in education is that it is a success-oriented business. It’s about seeing the possibilities in everyone – the most optimistic view held in tension with the understanding that it is a journey process. So whilst we take every opportunity to celebrate the “what” of achievements through reports, academic awards, assemblies, sporting medals, certificates of excellence, commendations, merit letters, House Points, our Student Chronicle, community projects and opportunities, nominations for state and national endeavours and the like; here at MBC we also celebrate the “who” of success – the character and contribution of people. We celebrate the character strengths demonstrated, sometimes amidst great challenge, the ‘student voice’ through leadership and student-driven initiatives, the passions for things beyond oneself as students look at their community and the broader world and their own purpose in it. We have incredible people who are driven by meaningful positive action. Sometimes these traits can be downplayed or not seen as important, but the reality is, we are often remembered for the “who” more than the “what”.
I’m thrilled there are so many platforms to celebrate a diversity of gifts, strengths and achievements here at MBC. Congratulations to our achievers at all levels and to the many who exhibit desirable character traits and leadership consistently. So proud to be on the journey with you – for what you achieve and who you are!
By Tracy Holmes, Senior School Principal