08 July 2012

social commentary Sunday . . . 'the primary school merit award system'

Greetings all,
Ah yes, that old chestnut, merit awards in primary school.  I started school in 1980 & as a smart, sporty, social student, i brought home my fair share of merit cards (we just found dozens of them in the garage tidy up!!)  For senior primary, i headed to private school & frivilous awards dried up. 
  Many a parent has sat at assembly, anxiously waiting for their child to be called up to receive a well earned merit certificate/ class award/ citizen prize . . . & nothing.  Worse, the naughty child who teases others - had one good day of behaviour or finally studied for a test - their name is called.  I have smart, sporty & social children, so i kind of expect the odd award to come home with them.  Alas . . . 
Criss crossing Australia with 4 children, we have used 9 different pre/ primary/ high schools - Montessori, public, indigenous, private - they are all inconsistent with their merit awards system.  Bringing an apple for the teacher is not going to result in any extra credit, most are terrified of being accused of bias!!
When our eldest started primary school in NSW, assemblies went for ages as an abundance of merit certificates were handed out (for fair reasons) - when you got 10, you received a Blue Honour Award & your family was invited to morning tea with the Principal.  We were only there for one year, by golly she got her Blue Honour & it was as important as the Order of Australia & high tea with the Queen, to all of us. 
My children attended a small NT indigenous primary school where merit awards were given as incentives with lots of encouragement certificates & i'm sure they went through the roll so everyone had a turn.  
Welcome to primary school in the ACT, smothered in public service & 'you're all winners' mentality.  Now i love our school (we drive a long way to get there) & this of course, is my opinion & a generalisation but GOOD LORD what do you have to do to get a merit certificate??  They give 2 per class, per assembly (4 assemblies per term!!)  Is it such agony for them to pick recipients??  Heaven forbid, recognising one child is better at something, than another??  I joke that it's a miracle they hand out sports ribbons for fear of identifying success.   
We're in our 5th year at this primary school (remember my husband posted to Brisbane on his own) so this is rare for a military family.  Our 4 children move seamlessly from school to school, from state to territory, yet the merit system is so out of whack, it's difficult to explain.  Our best academic performer is our middle daughter, she also happens to be polite, perfect posture & immaculate hair, uniform, homework . . . how many merit awards has she received??  One.  Well one at the time, i was asking another mother with bright nice children at assembly a fortnight ago, if her boys ever received awards . . . she rolled her eyes & said "oh don't you get it, if your child gets an award at this school, it basically means they are struggling!!"  That assembly, our middle girl received her 2nd award, from her teacher (new to the school) & shock it was for academic achievement!!
I love high school, their academic assemblies are once per semester & each class is given an award for best effort & best achievement.  Simple.  Worthy.  I'm extremely proud that our eldest daughter has received an award(s) at every assembly so far (this semester she's a possible Religious Education winner, hilarious for her atheist mother.)  
I can never guess who, what, why or when a primary school award is coming our way, can you??  Love Posie
PS with reference to my last post, i asked handsome soldier if i could proof read this post out loud to him & he responded "do i have a choice??"  Tee hee.
PPS the silver apple in the image was a gift for our beautiful & beloved out going primary school principal who appreciated my honest opinions (really.)

10 comments:

Maxabella said...

Our school gives our 2 merits per class every single week. Every child gets one at some point in time, but all for different things. I like that. Every child is good at something and this is a nice way to recognise that, I think. x

Posie Patchwork said...

See, lovely, that is fair, they are only little & have such wide expectations. I'm clearly for giving merit where merit is due, however, everyone is good at something, share the love, at least give them one award a year!! It's when they are so few & far between & clearly loaded that annoys me!! Love Posie

emma @ frog, goose and bear said...

Just like Maxabella, at our school there are 2 each week per class. Sharing the love. But now Goose is in an extensions class which runs through assembly time, she hasn't had one all year. You must have to show up to assembly to receive one! She received at least 2 a year before that. Not sure she's particularly fussed though as such regularly awards kinda takes the specialness away?

Amanda said...

Back before I went on maternity leave I was teaching and at our school, the policy was a child had to get an award at least once per semester. I liked that everyone had a chance to be recognised for something they were good or excelled at. I did have the odd occasion though where a typical 'naughty student' had excelled at something so I'd put their name forward for an award for later that week, only to have them be a toad the following day. However, with awards already in (and parents notified - we had to let parents know their child would be receiving an award), I couldn't then change my mind :)

Jode said...

I remember going through this when my now teen was in primary...she was and is still now a great student but she attended a school where it seemed you had to be struggling to receive awards and i found it really hard to explain that sort of merit system to her. It was unfair and basically punished in a way those that were doing well and trying hard. She has attended a few different schools and it does seem that the merit award systems vary greatly!
Congrats to your girl....bet she was so proud ...as was mama!

Magi said...

I was recently pleasantly surprised when one of my sons, the one who is neither here nor there about whether he gets a merit award, actually got two in a row. Now the thrill wasn't that he got two in a row (after such a long drought) but that they were for things he has been particularly trying hard in, two very different things, but both very important in his eyes. I was glad his teacher recognised this and awarded his efforts and achievements. He too can see that his efforts are recognised.

Sally said...

Oh yes. I am wondering how all of this works. Merit certificates are all new to me. Time will tell.

Sonia LifeLoveandHiccups said...

Our school has a merit system where every child gets at least one award per term recognising something special they have done. I think its great and they are so proud to stand up at the front of assembly and receive that award. The only hard part as a working mum is knowing when its their turn so that you can be there to see it. I have arranged with my boys teachers to give me a heads up. xx

Maddy said...

For many reasons that belong in the past, my DD never received any "merikawards" when she was in Primary School. She was also very tall, and the reason she gave is that "I am taller than the Principal, she doesnt want to have to look up to me". DD now works with Special Needs children, and knows better than her own teachers, how to motivate the behaviour challenged!

Posie Patchwork said...

Loving that people keep coming back to this post, it's one to stow away in your brain, to know all schools are inconsistent & you simply can't compare. Love Posie