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Disappointment & Pride

During the last four weeks of school, there are several occasions where awards and appointments are announced. The gift of an award brings obvious pleasure to the recipient and his/her parents.

It is also a learning time for the recipient - how to respond in a way that is appropriate and which takes account of the disappointment that others might feel that they have not been able to reach that level of achievement.

Modesty and humility are virtues that are not necessarily inherent in children - they learn these qualities from experiencing the response of others in similar situations, and also from discussing in advance what is appropriate. When children see on television athletes congratulating winners and other placegetters on the Olympic podiums, they pick up some clues as to appropriate responses and we see this at times reflected in the response to winning in our own school events.

Children also see excessive self-congratulation by winners on television in a number of competitive events. Working out what is appropriate needs discussion, preferably in advance.

Similarly, handling disappointment is a life-skill that is often much dependent on the response of the influenctial adults in a child's life. This is particularly important when the disappointment may be about leadership positions to which a child may have aspired. Prior to any announcement, it is important that parents counsel children about the possibility of not being selected, particularly where the child (or indeed the parent) believes that the appointment is certain to happen.

Non-appointment is not the same thing as failure, but the emotional response can be one of failure.

Sometimes parents and pupils ask us why they were not appointed or selected for a particular position. This places staff in a difficult position because, almost always, the choices for leadership are between pupils who each have fine qualities and about whom a decision must be made on a fine balance of personality, support by other pupils and subjective interpretation of leadership attributes. Under these circumstances, no answer is going to mollify the indignation of a person who believes that they are superior to the person appointed.

It comes back to parents to counsel children that throughout their lives, decisions will be made about them over which they have no control. Learning to accept those decisions, and to maintain one's self confidence and self-belief in the face of them, is part of the learning process that makes sense of life.