Personal best

How we measure personal best is really important. Everyday children and young people will be returning home from school with a set of numbers that tell them they are either good or not. It is probably not the intention but that is what it says. “I only got 7/10 on my spellings,” “I got an 8 on my course work, Darren got 9 and he did no work!” “Great news, I got a scale score of 103!”. “I only got 15 out of 35 on the SATs practice!” “100%!”

For many young people knowing their score can be a great motivator to improve and yet numbers can damage the hopes of others, leaving them deflated and hurting. It is so easy for children and young people to feel like a failure and something that we need to guard against.

I was recently reading the prospectus of a high school. It openly listed the students who walked away with hatful of the highest grades and made no mention of those who potentially worked twice as hard to get half the results.

Like the schools, CSCW work with students across the academic and economic spectrum. Like schools, we see those students who are making the most of all they have been given and also those for whom the very fact they have made it to school is making the most in and of itself. 

I suppose the question I want to ask is this. How do we celebrate educational success? Is applauding the top scores the only way to go? I love to watch the London Marathon. There is something about how the 2 hour elite athletes get cheered on the same way as the foam telephone box getting their 5hr personal best. This reminds me of the parable of the talents. The key to this story is not how much people are given but how they invest in and use what they have.

This can so easily be applied to the children and young people we work with. We get the opportunity to talk about how important it is to use the talents we are given. How the most important thing we can do is make sure we actually use the skills we have. That parable also helps us to explain that it is not the final amount that is celebrated but rather that the talent had grown.

As we walk through exam season we need to be really careful about how we use numbers and how we celebrate success. For the foam telephone box in school getting through to the end of the year might be a personal best in itself.