I attended my daughters’ Prize Giving Ceremony last night. I have two at the same school. One got a prize.
We filed into the large hall for a ceremony kicking off at 7.30. And what a ceremony! Speeches, musical entertainment, speeches, singing, speeches, prize presentations, more musical entertainment, prize presentations, speeches, prize presentations, and more singing and speeches.
The performances by the girls were magnificent. Their singing and their orchestral music were truly inspiring. Much of it was arranged and conducted by the girls themselves.
The highlight of the evening was the Head Girl’s speech. It was the only speech by a student. She was by far the best orator. And she delivered by far the best speech – full of wit, it had real punch. I felt good about that, for the other speeches were, well . . .
I couldn’t help but thinking that a prize-giving ceremony that ran to over three hours must have another message. It certainly wasn’t a message for the students of the school.
The audience, of girls, parents and family, was exhausted after the first two hours. Some had left by 10-o-clock, and the ceremony was still going on with no promise of an end in sight. Sigh.
When the ceremony eventually came to a close, after a summary of the guest speaker’s speech by another well-meaning speaker, we were invited to tea and sandwiches. The rooms of the hall were milling with hundreds of people.
My wife and I spent a good 15 minutes looking for our daughters. We found one. She was utterly exhausted. I went off looking for the other.
Approaching midnight, as I drove my family carefully home, I was reflecting on all that I had witnessed. I wanted to feel like a proud parent. I was a proud parent. But none of that parental pride was left.
I felt that my daughters had been duped by their own school.
I had my reflections confirmed by a colleague and father of a girl who’d collected a prize at the same ceremony. “It’s all about the school patting itself on the back,” he said.
Why do school’s do that? Why do they need to do it? I thought that schools were ‘putting students first’. Perhaps I was wrong in this case.