When school goes wrong for good girls

We're not talking heroin here or teenage pregnancy, just the slow descent from excitement and wonder into boredom and lack of motivation.  In her 14-year school career Angel went from this:

To that:

That being a fancy dress party last Monday in school.  The whole year was sent home early...just in case.  Apart from the exams school officially ended the previous Friday, but then she was back for a while on four of the days last week.  The emotional bit came on Tuesday evening when there was a Graduation Mass, with cups of warm tea and awkward conversations in the community hall afterwards.  

Oh the tears, the drama, the breaking of the fellowship!  And yet most of Angel's friends will be staying in Dublin when they go to College. 

For the parents it was a night to feel the passage of the years, and reflect back.  I still remember so clearly that first school morning, when she wriggled her little hand out of mine and ran across the school yard to her friends - without a backwards glance.

There was little drama in the classroom, and Angel sailed through her teenage years with the support of a great group of friends.  She speaks warmly of some of her teachers, but her last days at secondary school were marked by complete disinterest.  Chatting to the other parents, a lot of us felt the same.  The school overlooked our girls.  For school awards, for positions of responsibility, to take part in school events.  Basically the school seemed to have their favourites, and they were always picked.  Now these girls are very talented, and deserve to be recognised.  They will surely go on to be successful at whatever they choose to do in life.

But I think that every child is good at something.

Should schools not try to find that special talent and reward and recognise it?

Many parents do that at home as well, but it must be really good for a child's self-esteem to get praised in front of their friends and classmates?

At one extreme are the schools that ban competition altogether.  That have no awards and no winners.  I don't think that works either.   It's not a preparation for real life.  And unless you can wrap the children up in a bubble that excludes TV and internet access, they are likely to believe that winning is important, sometimes even when they are very young.  I think that children do need to learn about winning and losing.  They need to know when they could have won, perhaps if they had put in more effort or if something had not gone wrong.  They need to know that losing does not mean you're a bad person or a failure, but that you chalk it up to experience and learn from it and do better next time

One idea I came across was schools that only allow pupils to win an award once - even if they are the best in the school, someone else gets the opportunity the following year.  I really like this idea.

They have a great solution at Smiley's school too: here they make the awards fit the children, so last year she won the 'happiest child in the school' award, which I *may* have mentioned before.

Angel might've cared more about the school if she had felt that the school cared more and took more interest in her achievements.

Is this something that bothers you?


  1. The reason why children loose interest for the final years is because schools turn into big grind factories for the Leaving Cert. It is wrong, it is counter-productive, but that is the system. Good luck with college, Angel, it is a lot more fun!

  2. This always bothered me in my school years. If you weren't on the hockey team or a musician you were neglected by the rest of the teachers. I really hated school with a passion. When the gruesome twosome started secondary school, I worried as they had followed in my non sporty footsteps. The answer to your question is yes, they should find their special talent and reward and recognise it? School should not only be about what "fits the mould" but what the individual child is capable of and excels at. Unfortunately I think we are many years off achieving that target xx

  3. YES! School awards bother me...only because at our particular school most EVERYONE gets one..To me they don't make it special enough-or make the child feel as if perhaps they excelled..now, most of the kids expect something at the end of the year.Whether they worked for it or not.

  4. The only thing I came away from school with was the relief that it was all over - it just felt like a huge uninspiring place that I got sucked into everyday.

    I have always thought that if we had ever have had children then I would have home educated them instead of sending them to school as they just seem alien places to me.

    Sorry to hear that Angel's final days were a let down - love the photo of her in her uniform though (can see her little brother in her!) :)xx

  5. This is one thing I'm dreading when MC goes to school - schools DO seem to have their favourites and all others are overlooked like they are insignificant, it's so wrong.


  6. I wish our school would focus more on the kids and less on the extracurricular activities. We have a few great teachers that reward the kids for being kind and generous--I wish we had more of them.

  7. I think every child is good at something. Whilst I agree you shouldn't reward kids for the sake of it. I remember at a girl guide years ago the leaders gave an award to everyone for something different e.g best helper, artist, giggler, etc

  8. Aawh what a cutey :) enjoy the next phase of your education Angel xx

  9. @Truf - I do agree with you on that - she's memorising Irish essays off by heart! That's not real 'learning' and certainly not how to learn a language :(

    @Petunia - thank you, I also think schools should look at the individual child xx

    @kathleen - yes giving every child an award every year sounds like it's taking it too far.

    @Helen - I often read about people home educating, but I don't think I could cope emotionally xx

    @SAHMlovingit - fingers crossed it's different for MC x

    @Lizbeth - good teachers are the best :)

    @Mammy Dolittle - that sounds like the system at Smiley's school. I'm delighted that there are different opinions on this! Thanks for commenting.

    @auntiegwen - I'm sure she will, I loved College xx

  10. I totally agree with this. Holly has done so much out of school with her theatre, singing etc but it's always the same ones in school who get their achievements recognised in and outside of school.

    Every department has their favourites and it doesn't matter how hard a child tries they wont change that.

    I suppose in a way, this will stand them in good stead when they spread their wings and college will be totally different.

  11. Yes it bothers me. My 2 are dyslexic and bright but not academic. Luckily for me they are 'quiet and good' at school but this often means, always means really, that they get overlooked. The naughty ones get awards as an incentive and the brilliant get awards because they are. My Tall Girl doesn't even expect anything any more :-)

    Glad yours has met such a lovely group of friends.

  12. @lyndylou - Holly sounds so much like Angel, whose achievements are also mostly outside school, but I still think it does children good to get a bit of recognition in the school as well.

    @Suburbia - That's really sad to hear about Tall Girl xx

  13. It's the focus on the exams that kills it. They go from learning to regurgitating and that's NO fun.

    Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro.

  14. @LIAPF - yes that part is so sad too, it takes all the joy from learning.

  15. There is so much wrong with education in Ireland at present. However I was lucky I sent my children to our local comprehensive school. they have two awards per year called Principals awards. They give them to loads of the children and as you say they fit the child, so they get "most mannerly" or "for politeness and enthusiasm" etc. Even the sixth years laugh getting them, but they still want them. Best wishes to your daughter in her exams.

  16. @Tric - Thank you, especially for your good wishes. My daughter is now into her third year in College, so exams are looming once again x