Prizegivings are good for the soul

Sue Newman

If you have any doubt about the future of New Zealand, head along to any of the secondary school prizegivings currently under way.

There’s no question, that the future is in good hands, very good hands.

Attend any of those prizegivings and be impressed by not just the achievements that are recognised but by the maturity with which those students approach award ceremonies.

They’re not all winners in the grand sense of the word, but those who are not called on stage are still honest and enthusiastic supporters of their peers who are.

Prizegivings are emotional occasions if you take a few minutes to sit back and think about what’s going on.

For those who are recognised, an award represents weeks and months of hard work, of sacrificing leisure time with mates, of playing the school game with your eye firmly on the ball.

Many of those walking on stage have been winners in each of their secondary years and many are sporting or cultural stars as well. And they’re still life’s babies.

These students are our future and we should be ultra proud of what they’ve achieved and clearly what they will achieve in the years ahead.

It’s not just those top students, however, who deserve accolades. Completing five years of secondary education to a standard where you receive a merit award is also an achievement. These are the kids who’re not the academic stars, they’re every family’s child – hard working, well rounded and determined to do their best in life.

Watching those students file on stage one after another brings a lump to the throat. These kids are heroes in their own right. And they’re each stepping out into a new world, one that plays by different rules.

They’ll be on their own, fighting for their place in a new team and learning life lessons that schools can only hope they prepare them for.

At a recent Ashburton College prizegiving it was quite moving to see so many students for whom New Zealand was not their place of birth, receiving awards. For those not born here, for those whose first language is not English, staying the distance to Year 13, let alone winning an award, is a massive achievement.

Those school leavers all started life in different places, with different packages of family support and different levels of school readiness. And while they may not have started as equals, the dedication of the teachers they encountered over their 13 school years have filled gaps, levelled the playing field, made up deficiencies, nurtured their souls, boosted spirits and fed their inquiring minds.

While they may never give it a thought when they hatch from their secondary student shells, those students will be taking with them for the rest of their lives, the work of this country’s teachers.

Long after their efforts are forgotten, they will still be part of their ex-students’ lives. All power to those teachers.