As a sports fan, I love this time of year, (despite the challenges of being an eels fan), as footy finals represent the culmination of effort, training, planning, and action with the recognition of excellence for the champions.
With football codes and winter sport finishing, there is also a rare season of sporting “world cups”, with lots of trophies for the winning team as well as accolades for elite and excellent players.
My daughter plays junior netball and from her experience it is not appropriate to have the criteria for excellence as “number of goals scored” because there may be opportunities for only two members of the team. It has been sad to see that some young, enthusiastic netballers who played well are disappointed because they feel that they have not played well because they don’t understand their position or role. It’s the job of the parents to recognise the important things to encourage and this is the same for parents (and teachers) in considering school experiences:
• When the criteria are unachievable, excellence cannot be achieved.
• Excellence is open to perception and won’t always be recognised the same. Unfortunately for children often the things that they believe equate to success are not realistic.
So, what if excellence is self-determined? For some it would mean misplaced belief of either over achievement or underachievement, and would most likely be about scores rather than effort, and outcomes rather than process.
Children need our assistance in determining when they have done their best both in terms of expecting more from themselves and in expecting less from themselves.
It is right for expectations of “what excellence looks like” to shift as the context shifts, and the most obvious shift of context is when students get older, what is produced looks better; but the key element that remains constant is that of “effort”.
Effort is the best measure of excellence, because it is the only way that a person can produce something in line with their potential; when people “try their best” they “do” their best.
It can be difficult for parents to know the correct indicator for:
• When has my child achieved excellence?
• What does excellence look like for my child in this particular area?
• Is excellent attitude better than excellent results?
• Is excellent effort enough?
As the major educators of children, parents play the most critical role in establishing the expectations of excellence. This wavers between “give them a break” (and don’t always expect full marks or perfect behaviour) and “raise the bar” (drag them up to expecting more of themselves and not delivering second best when they just aren’t trying).
One of the reasons that I’m writing this is because I have heard concerns (including fear) from children about the consequences parents put in place when they haven’t met the expectations of their parents. I’m not seeking to tell parents that they are wrong when aiming for more from their children, however, an approach that is centred around the abilities of the child and the effort applied is more appropriate than looking only at a mark.
My encouragement is to think through what you are expecting from your children and to develop expectations of excellence that are unique for each child. As children grow, expectations of excellence can be created in consultation with them. Above all, encourage the effort that has been invested by your children.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
The context of this from the Bible is about doing your best because you realise that everything you have is from God.