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No prizes for coming top....

(53 Posts)
RepatNikki Mon 06-Jun-11 11:49:07

DS is a bright and highly academic child. He's in year 6, and will shortly be moving to senior school.
We moved him at age 7 to a private prep school as he really didn't fit in at his state primary. The school has been great for him - has given him lots to do, keep him busy and really stretched him.

He has maintained an outstanding record of academic, music and drama achievements. I 'm honestly not boasting, but the fact is that he has the highest grades in two musical instruments, in drama awards, and he is consistently an 'A' student in terms of effort/ achievement/ presentation/ homework etc. He's had lead parts in school plays etc.

I know he sounds like a pain, but he's not, honestly, he's friendly, popular, hard-working and reliable. His teachers always get his help woth things, and trust him with tasks and responsibilities etc.

Earlier this year he won scholarships to two of his chosen schools for next year - one of which was the top scholarship offered.

The thing is - he never seems to get any sort of recognition or congratulation for his hard work and achievements sad. I know schools have to share the rewards around, but it feels as if he is being deliberately discriminated AGAINST!

He had really hoped to be Head Boy or House Captain. It changes every term, and each term he has come home dejected - having not been given any position of responsibility sad. It's not just me being a proud parent either - I've had numerous of his friends' parents telling me he was such a 'dead cert' for Head Boy. When he wasn't chosen again last term I had FIVE parents ask me why hadn't he been chosen, as they were really surprised/shocked.
Most of the other Head Boys/ Head Girls were all academic/ scholarly types, so it's not as if it's e.g. just the sporty ones that were chosen. Weirdly, the last Head Boy was one of the silly/ disruptive ones, which surprised everyone (but then his Mum DOES help a lot with the PTA... hmm )

Last night he asked me why he has never been rewarded for his hard work, and had he done something wrong? I didn't know what to say, because I fel the same. I just said he should feel good knowing that he has done well, and achieved the best he could. But I can tell that he's disappointed that his isn't one of the names on the boards that fill the school hall...

I just wish I could be a fly on the wall, and find out what conversations happen about these things.

Is there any premise under which I could ask the question about how children are chosen for recognition etc?

Please don't flame me for this (long) post... I know my son is fortunate to be bright etc, but he has also worked so hard to achieve what he has, and I feel that he is rather taken for granted really sad.

Threadworm8 Mon 06-Jun-11 11:52:21

Surely the high grades, top scholarships etc are themselves the acknowledgement and reward for his effort and talent? That plus your pleasure in his success?

Surely the head boy thing is separate. Perhaps he should have had that, perhaps not. But it wouldn't be given as a reward for high grades would it?

DamselInDisarray Mon 06-Jun-11 11:52:23

But your son is rewarded by doing well and by winning very competitive scholarships. He also gets lead parts in plays, etc and you said yourself that he is trusted with tasks and responsibilities by his teachers. That sounds like a lot of rewards for effort and achievement.

Maybe teach him to see the ways in which he is recognised rather than focusing on him not having been head boy.

HappyMummyOfOne Mon 06-Jun-11 11:55:38

hmm at your comment re his mum helping a lot with the PTA - good on her, I would imagine like 99% of PTA members she does it to raise funds and help the school not to get her child favouritism.

Perhaps they gave the other child the post as they believe the position will be the making of him.

Given you didnt think state suited your son and the many comments re his success you are clearly focussed on his education but dont forget his teachers wont view him in the same light as a parent and will be more open to his flaws. If he comes across like you re the "bragging" then perhaps thats why they didnt feel he was suitable for head boy.

SarkyLady Mon 06-Jun-11 12:03:33

I do have some sympathy.
I still remember being gutted for not getting the 'class prize' (age about 9) despite coming top in most exams/tests. I asked the teacher about it and she said "well you're bound to get it next year so I thought we'd give someone else a turn". Made no sense to me at the time, but now I can see why this might have happened, that there prob was a child in the class that particularly needed the recognistion for what they had achieved that year.
I also was not chosen to be a prefect, and had to face all the "we thought you were a dead cert" comments. I found out years later that there was a huge discussion about it involving my parents. Again, I can understand the decision now but at the time it felt incredibly unfair. Kids don't cope well with perceived unfairness IMO.

I would focus on explaining that teachers have to take lots of different factors into account when making these decisions and that it is impossible for you to know the full story behind each decision. He needs to be proud of his achievements regarless of these decisions. And most importantly he needs to know that you are not disappointed in him. I think that was what hurt me most was that my parents would think less of me because I had not achieved things (that my older sibling had done).

RepatNikki Mon 06-Jun-11 12:12:33

HappyMummy - the comment about the PTA was tongue in cheek, and as it happens, I do an equal fair share of the PTA stuff too.
Perhaps the reason I was surprised by her son becoming Head Boy was because just the week before he had been hauled up in front of a teacher for drawing pictures of her being run over by a truck, instead of getting on with his work hmm Yes - perhaps it will be the 'making of him' confused

Of course the scholarships etc are reward in themselves etc, but then again the school didn't even make a big deal about those! They're happy to boast that 'we got X scholarships' this year, but they didn't give any sort of acknowledgement to the children who got them EXCEPT that the other kids who got them have all been Head Boy/Girl or House Captains ... I guess that is what I am quizzical about - if this is the case, why not DS?

Probably I wouldn't have thought too much about it, except that, as I said, I have had numerous other parents ask 'why not DS? We're really surprised.. etc'

So it's not just me being precious...

I'd just be interested (genuinely) to understand how these decisions are made - perhaps a teacher can shed some light on the sorts of conversations which occur??

RepatNikki Mon 06-Jun-11 12:16:16

Sarky - thanks - that's a useful post.

Perhaps I feel sad for him because I had a similar experience to you as a child. I was always top of music/English etc and NEVER won any prizes - they all went to 'most improved' or 'best effort' etc.

I remember being really upset at about age 8, and my tacher taking me aside saying 'but you are always good, and Y has had to work so hard to reach the same level this year...'. It didn't make sense to me either - I felt I was good because I worked hard!

Elibean Mon 06-Jun-11 12:17:59

I would think the decisions are made in different ways at different times by different schools/teachers....

Re the naughty/silly boy, its true that giving positions of responsibility can help the more irresponsible children at times - its possible he was chosen in order to give him a sense of responsibility: something he needs to learn, whereas your ds already has it. Just a thought!

It can be hard, if your child is disappointed...but yes, do try and help him see how the scholarship etc is acknowledgement in and of itself. Also, maybe if you get the opportunity to chat to the class teacher or some other teacher he thinks highly of, mention he's a bit dejected and could do with a pat on the back - sometimes just being told 'we're all very proud of you here' is just as good.

DamselInDisarray Mon 06-Jun-11 12:21:15

Maybe the other boy really does deserve it more. Just because your (second hand) knowledge of him is of being silly or disruptive, doesn't mean that is always the case or that he doesn't have other qualities that make him the best choice.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Mon 06-Jun-11 12:22:16

Your son doesn't sound a pain but you do, a bit. Your son's talents have been recognised in so many ways that I'm baffled that you think he's been taken for granted.

It seems rather pointless now to be asking the school to explain how the Head Boy and House Captain were chosen. By all means do it if you feel you must, but don't ask the school to justify why one particular boy was made Head Boy. I'm pretty sure the school will make the point that these roles aren't a reward for academic excellence. I guess they'll also say something about social and organisational skills and being a team player and, although your son has very many gifts, it doesn't sound as if this is his strongest area (and never will be, if you in any way encourage a sense of grievance at not being picked for these roles on top of all his other achievements and areas of recognition).

SarkyLady's suggestions are excellent.

SarkyLady Mon 06-Jun-11 12:26:54

Do you ever give him 'prizes'?

The pair of roller skates that my parents bought me when I brought my report home made a huge difference to me. it wasn't an automatic 'you get this every year because you're clever' type thing. It was a 'we've noticed how hard you have worked this year and we are very proud of you'.

And don't try and second guess why teachers make the decisions that they do. The head girl choice in my year was a huge surprise to everyone. Again I found out years later why this had happened and it was something we never would have guessed. And with hindsight it was the right decision.

RepatNikki Mon 06-Jun-11 12:28:24

Damsel - I'm not really focused on this boy getting it rather than DS - I don't know the background... however he WAS a bit of a 'surprise' - that's all.

I think the thing that DS aspired to was to have his name on one of the big oak boards in the school hall - which only happens if you're Head Boy/Girl or House Captain. I think all kids 'benchmark' themselves with others they perceive to be like them, and DS has seen all the kids he considers to be his 'peers' to get their names up there. He just sounded so upset when the final term's appointments were made. He said, "I feel I've contributed so much to the school, and now nobody will remember me..." sad

At the end of the day, I know it's just life, and it's tough, but I can't help privately feeling "yes- you woz robbed.." grin

redskyatnight Mon 06-Jun-11 12:31:17

Personally I think that it's great that the school are rewarding other that the consistent high achievers.
From what you say your child is great at music, drama, sport and also top of the class academically. Isn't it time that someone else gets a chance to shine at something?

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Mon 06-Jun-11 12:34:07

You really do need to encourage your son to deal with the disappointment, rather than letting it fester, and see things in a different light. In the first place, being a name on a board does not mean you will be remembered forever and (as you could explain to your son) not being on the board does not mean that he will be instantly forgotten. I am sure his teachers will remember him and his many achievements.

Getting over this disappointment and dealing with it maturely will be one of the most useful life lessons your son can learn.

ExitPursuedByAKitten Mon 06-Jun-11 12:34:30

I would have thought getting lead parts in the school plays was a form of recognition - believe me I know, as my DD has once again been passed over for a part in the end of term play because her teacher does not like her, or me, (and I am the only active PTA member amongst the parents in her class). It hurts like hell when your child is overlooked, but it seems to me that your DS has had plenty of successes. I have had to explain to my DD that life simply is not fair sometimes.

RepatNikki Mon 06-Jun-11 12:38:25

ComeIntoTheGarden - "social and organisational skills and being a team player and, although your son has very many gifts, it doesn't sound as if this is his strongest area" - crikey - that's a bit of rash generalisation isn't it? How could you possibly make that assessment?
Actually his reports suggest he is strong in this area, and though you might not believe it, he is the least boastful child you could imagine! In fact sometimes DH and I wonder if he doesn't 'blow his own trumpet' enough?

Of course I sound a 'pain' in discussing this here - I thought that was the point of MN - to have those open discussions which you'd never dare to have in RL?

We do reward him at home for his successes, but I think external recognition often counts for a lot too.

C'est la vie... as I said, it's not something I can DO anything about, other than to teach DS to value his own achievements. I only raised it because it seemed to hit him particularly hard, and like any mother I hate seeing my child upset....

ragged Mon 06-Jun-11 12:39:20

DC primary schools (one large state, one small private (though not a "prep") often mention children's achievements (like in music or sport) in their newsletters, State school also has a wall of achievement, where children can bring in pictures and captions to display to whole school about their activities. I would think it would be reasonable for you OP to:

A) suggest directly to the HT or similar that they have a display wall or newsletter habit of praising children's achievements in the same sorts of ways;
B) ask your child's teacher directly why he never got chosen as head boy, because he quite would have liked to (I think that's a good enough reason). Keep your question about your child & his disappointment, not about anybody else.

And otherwise let it go, you're child is leaving soon, right?

SarkyLady Mon 06-Jun-11 12:41:54

Don't ask the teacher "why he never got chosen as head boy".

Do mention to the teacher that he is a bit upset about seeing other pupils getting recognised and ask if she has any suggestions for dealing with it.

grubbalo Mon 06-Jun-11 12:44:35

Hi Repat, I do have sympathy, I really do as I can tell you really are bothered on his behalf and of course you don't want him to be upset.

Do you think it's possible the school's thinking is that he has only ever had success at everything he has done, and maybe that this is a way of him realising that we all have to deal with some sort of set-backs? And that dealing with it is in some way character building? It doesn't sound like he has had to deal with many things not going "his way" (and I mean that in a nice way, i.e. he has passed all his exams with flying colours, he is good at other things too).

I think it would be very hard to raise with the school without appearing over-bearing - but I suspect that at some point you will find out the "real" reason and it is actually down to his strengths.

Also as other people have said, bear in mind that your approval will be the biggest thing to him so keep up the whole "it's not a big deal" thing - he needs to know you are proud of him no matter what (and it is clear you are).

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Mon 06-Jun-11 12:54:19

Exactly, OP. You asked for views and people are giving them. If they're wide of the mark of course you're free to dismiss them. Obviously I have not made any "assessment" of your son, but the tone of your original post and others since - and your son's own quoted comment about how much he has contributed to the school - make it sound as if you and he both expect every single prize/reward/accolade to be his and his alone. Perhaps that is not what you intend to convey. All the prep schools of my experience place great emphasis on being a team player (incidentally, I didn't say that he wasn't strong in this area, just that it maybe wasn't his greatest strength) and the sort of "me me me" attitude that (excuse me if I have misinterpreted) your son's remark appears to suggest might have stood in his way when it came to selecting a Head Boy.

As I said, your son clearly has many gifts and I am sure he will excel at secondary school.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Mon 06-Jun-11 12:55:36

Once again, SarkyLady's suggestions are excellent.

snailoon Mon 06-Jun-11 12:55:54

This just goes to show why all the "head boy" and "prefect" titles are not a great idea. Almost everyone ends up disappointed, including the boy who always gets C's and doesn't play an instrument, but still thought someone would notice how wonderful he is. I always tell my kids that these things are completely unimportant; you must do more than tell them this--you must believe it yourself. Convincing kids of this means not always taking school completely seriously; I mean the silly things about school.
It is good for children to realise that their motivation and sense of self esteem mustn't depend on anyone else's approval or any external reward. It is a hard lesson, and one that many grown-ups have trouble with.

evolucy7 Mon 06-Jun-11 12:59:59

I too am a little confused why you feel that your DS has not received any recognition, highest scholarship, highest grades, lead parts in school plays in particular, he would have been 'chosen' for those.

As others have said Headboys etc are not always chosen just because the child has excellent grades and has won a scholarship, the scholarship is the recognition for that. Does he have leadership skills? Is he quiet?

lovecheese Mon 06-Jun-11 13:05:27

There can only be one Head Boy and One Head Girl per term. You clearly expected your DS to be chosen and he wasn't and you are jealous of the boy who was. Tough, it's life. Sorry to be so short, I am not normally extreme in my views on here.

evolucy7 Mon 06-Jun-11 13:10:21

Does your DS think that all the other children who have not been Head/Captain will be forgotten, will he forget them because of that?

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