Some lessons don't come from a blackboard

Last week my daughter decided to nominate herself for the leadership team (Captain, Vice Captain, SRC leader). She has been on the Student Representative Council this year and she enjoyed her first foray into selfless public servitude.

She had her sights set on bigger things. Which, if you know my daughter, is encouraging because she’s usually the quiet reserved one that is always unsure of herself.

J worked on her speech the entire weekend. She recited it that many times I had almost memorized it. She asked me for my advice and I pointed her in the right direction but stopped short of writing or working out the finer details her ideas and policies.

And I knew that if this was just a teacher’s vote, she be a shoe in. She’s that sort of student. Studious, attentive, considerate, responsible. What she doesn’t have though is a huge group of friends.

She’s the kind of girl that likes smaller groups so while she might be well respected amongst her peers, she doesn’t exactly hang around with the popular crowd.

And in her eyes, this is what let her down. J stood up in front of the entire Year 5 and outgoing Year 6 student body and read her speech. She had a bad feeling things weren’t going to go well for her because it seemed not many people were listening to her speak; except for the 3 girls in her little group.

J was considerate of every other speaker and listened attentively to what they had to say. All the while watching how the room reacted to each one.

The votes were calculated and J did not make the top 3. She was gutted. But she was mature enough to keep her emotions in check and congratulate the 3 girls.

She comforted her friend who didn’t garner one single vote.

It was a bittersweet moment for J because the 3 girls who had made the cut were “nice girls, and I like them but….”

When I picked J up in the afternoon I could see from her demeanor that she hadn’t been selected. I watched her as she got in the car, looked at me, shook her head and then burst into tears.

She had wanted this so bad that at that moment it seemed unfathomable and just down right unfair that she wasn’t selected.

My heart broke. Why didn’t I give her more ideas and pointers about her ideas and policies? Why didn’t I just help write her damn speech? Prime Minister Gillard has a speech writer; why not my daughter?

I know, I know. She needs to make it on her own. Even though I know that she would have made an excellent school captain but she needs to earn that right on her own. Logically I know that. But logic doesn’t make up for the hurt that both of us are feeling right now.

“It’s a popularity contest”, my daughter finally said. “No-one was really listening to the speeches. Some speeches were bad Mum. And everyone just voted for their friends. “

I had no answers. I explained that that’s why politicians campaign a lot; partly to get their policies known, partly to get people to ‘like’ them so they will vote.

And I added, “And sometimes the world just sucks”. She looked at me with a half smile.

This was definitely a ‘growth moment’. J learned something. She learned the value of picking yourself up and marching on.

“The girls that did get picked…you know…they deserve it too,” she willingly conceded.

“This year the most number of students went for school captain,” she says trying to find ways comfort herself.

I don’t know where to from here. Next year J will have to watch as the school leaders perform their duties.

I wonder if this moment will be one of those pivotal moments in her life. Her first taste of real disappointment and what she does with it.

She’s hoping she can be a part of the SRC again next year. But that’s another speech and another vote. She did that once, hopefully she can do that again.


  • At 2011.12.16 14:52, David Sander said:

    Of all people who stand to learn (and benefit) the most from this experience is J herself. The tears did flow, that is only the ego expressing itself. The intellect, with its accumulated wisdom, is sure to be the greatest beneficiary in the longer term.

    • At 2011.12.21 14:00, Maria said:

      I hope so David. Our characters are probably more defined by our losses than our wins

      Love & stuff
      Mrs M

    • At 2011.12.16 16:00, MummyK said:

      She is great to take the risk and go for it. She will always remember this and she will learn from it. You are a great mum for letting her do this and supporting her!

      • At 2011.12.21 14:02, Maria said:

        Thanks Kristyn. I was just a bit worried that she finally gets the courage to try and things don’t go her way she may be reluctant to try again. She was voted in this year for SRC and I commented on that but she said “it was just a class vote and I was the only one with a speech”.

        Love & stuff
        Mrs M

      • At 2011.12.16 16:17, Enzo said:

        I hate to utter the cliché, but it’s “character-building”. It broke my heart as well, but hey – that’s politics. Goddamn popularity contest.

        • At 2011.12.21 14:04, Maria said:

          Pffft character building. Let someone else’s kid have character building. Let mine have GLORY! Too much? 😉

          Love & stuff
          Mrs M

        • At 2011.12.16 16:57, Grace said:

          I think that you can’t prepare yourself for the hardships of adulthood if you don’t go through some tough times in childhood. If your daughter is anything like you, she’ll get back on that horse and blitz the elections next year. I was on the SRC in Yr 9. I hate to admit it, but your daughter’s spot on – It is a popularity contest…

          • At 2011.12.21 14:12, Maria said:

            I hear you Grace and I know you’re right, I think it’s more the opportunities the school leaders have outside the school, like meeting local MP’s, or visiting Government House etc.

            This year the SRC team were in the Mini Vinnies group (school program from St Vincent De Paul) and they were involved in fund raisers, blanket drives and visited Vinnies shops to see the back end. At the end of the year she got to go to St Mary’s Cathedral for a luncheon. I had vegemite sandwiches 😛

            Love & stuff
            Mrs M

          • At 2011.12.16 19:58, Miss Pink said:

            Oh my heart breaks for her.
            I really think that the teachers do need to weigh in on this more.
            It was my experience in school, and probably everyone elses that the popular kids, they got the votes and therefore the spots, and they did a lousy and selfish job in the end.
            I think there needs to be more campagning, and certain hoops to jump through before even being able to be nominated, like good grades and good community standing. Your daughter would have definitely got it then.

            • At 2011.12.21 14:13, Maria said:

              You know Miss Pink I would have thought the teachers would have weighed in on it too.

              One of the prerequisites was to be a student who modelled good behaviour. Well the boy who got Vice Captain is always in trouble. Even his mother said she was surprised he was allowed to run in the elections.

              Love & stuff
              Mrs M

            • At 2011.12.16 23:00, Robyn (@slightly_deep) said:

              I had such an awful experience trying to get school leader in Grade 12….. I ran, and had a reasonably good chance- the principal even told my Mum in Grade 11 to make sure I stood! But then a new girl who had been at school for a couple of weeks of Grade 12 and was getting really popular ran, and she did a fantastic speech- and because we had grade 11’s and 12’s voting as well- she got in. It was a bit unfair as I had been SC rep all the way through school, but it became far too much of a popularity contest. I don’t think a person who had been in the school for a few weeks should have been able to run. Plus with Grade 11’s voting too, they just voted on popularity and speeches. It got really messed up. I think teachers should have more of a say. I got burned badly. But in saying that- even though it was so incredibly hard at the time, I’m pretty sure I’m a much nicer person for not getting in! It made me grow, and I think I could have been a bit conceited if I had won- so it knocked me down a little, which didn’t do me any harm!

              • At 2011.12.21 14:33, Maria said:

                Hi Robyn,

                Yeah someone only being at the school getting captain is a little much. Our highschool teachers got to vote. Their votes counted as 2. So it kind of weeded out the ones who didn’t really deserve to be there.

                Thanks for the visit and the comment.

                Love & stuff
                Mrs M

              • At 2011.12.17 00:37, louise b said:

                J is right about it being a popularity contest…. unfortunately …its also what Australia’s current political system is based on …no one is really listening to the speeches and policy is short term and popularist rather than for the good of the country. As for J just because you don’t get the votes doesn’t mean you don’t have something great to offer.

                • At 2011.12.21 14:36, Maria said:

                  Hi Louise,

                  Thanks for your kind words. I’ll let J know.

                  She just has this idealist view of being a school leader; she actually wants to do good, it’s not just about the glory of being school captain. Which is one of the reasons she was annoyed; some people were just there for the glory.

                  I’m positive I wasn’t this mature at her age. She must get it from her father.

                  Love & stuff
                  Mrs M

                • At 2011.12.17 13:32, Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said:

                  It is true that it is a popularity contest. Sad but true.

                  Boo decided he wanted to be president of the school so entered the race for sports captain. There is NO WAY in the world he could have done it but he made the kids laugh and they love him and he won. But the kids weren’t told that and the kid who came in second won. And that is fine with me but it just goes to prove it has nothing to do with the abilities of the child just the amount of people they can get to vote.

                  • At 2011.12.21 14:40, Maria said:

                    Hi Kelley,

                    That’s excellent. From what I’ve read about Boo he would have been chuffed.

                    You just kind of hope that abilities over popularity comes up trumps in the end.

                    Love & stuff
                    Mrs M

                  • At 2011.12.18 20:09, Denyse Whelan said:

                    I have had the privilege of meeting your daughter, and can say that I found her beautifully eloquent and very much a caring person. She showed quiet leadership and maturity in our brief casual hello.
                    I am so very sorry that she did not ‘pick up’ the numbers.
                    I know first hand, as both a teacher AND school principal, that this type of leadership decision making is fraught with favoritism, friendships and fake stuff.
                    True that the teachers have a say. True that there can be overridden decisions made. True that kids who show up well via speeches can let themselves (and the school) down over and over as the school year goes by.
                    I am so burned by some unethical ways in which some schools go about this ‘leadership’ and ‘vote’ thing, that I don’t like it AT ALL. There is a story attached to my being burnt. But, this is not about me, it’s about your sweet girl. Love her mum giving her the best way to let down…a hug, some tears, some loving words, and back to it.
                    Your daughter has strength and character.
                    Love from Me
                    The once School Principal

                    • At 2011.12.21 14:53, Maria said:

                      Denyse you are so lovely. She has found out that she has the opportunity to be part of the Mini Vinnies group again next year. So even if she doesn’t make it into SRC again next year, she’ll have something to do.

                      The teachers told her to run for sports captain and she didn’t think it was appropriate because she is not sporty at all. She thought the sports captain should be someone who has competed and done well for the house at the carnivals. Such a high sense of propriety.

                      Love & stuff
                      Mrs M

                    • At 2014.05.12 19:49, elsomeone said:

                      I say ban all popularity kids!!! I was trying to be an vice captain in year 5 and I lost to my best friend im sorry about your daughter but I m sur eshe will get it next time

                      (Required, will not be published)