Some may have made that claim to their children, rightfully or wrongfully. Well, that first appeared on my report card twice so I have the right to say it to mine 😁. The other two times it should have, our performance rating was for the overall class set and I was knocked down to fifth and third. These were in secondary school. Interestingly in primary school I wasn’t really interested as I was content with my fourth to sixth. Finishing thirteenth in the class set in the second term of my first year in FGCL, with the carrot of a scholarship for the first twelve in the third year, motivated me to be one of the awardees a few months later.
Academic excellence is good as is indeed any achievement one seeks. However the place of best could only go to one person in the class. Quite often we always knew who the contenders were. I always wondered what it was like to be low in the ratings, and I got my chance when I truanted in preparing for, and skipped a paper during the mock exam before our graduating exam. My worst report card ever was the last one I took home.
At home my dad had this ritual of not commenting on our report cards until the day before we left home for a new term. In my good sessions I was confident, and when same happened in the last term of my fourth year I entered his study with swag. He opened my report file and showed me each academic report from the previous two years, asking me to read the Class Teacher’s comment at the bottom. I was surprised to see the consistent, “He can still do better” despite finishing in the top five of the class or top ten of the entire class set. It was humbling.
I thus learnt it’s more important to give your best than to come out tops. Giving your best always leads to a steady improvement which is the goal of education and being trained in anything we do. In this era where things change so fast it’s difficult to stay on top and silly to rest on ones oars. You just have to keep rowing. You may not come first….yet, and indeed you may never come first, but there are enough examples to show that coming first in class or a competition, doesn’t mean you are the best and will be the most successful. Success as in “winning the race” also tends not to be permanent. Even Usain Bolt didn’t win his last race.
I attended my Alma Mata’s speech and prize giving day some years ago as the Special Guest, and I delivered a speech on giving your best. As the students came out to receive their prizes from best in class to best in home economics, and best in so many categories, I sought out the winner of the prize I had donated. As suspected, when I saw him, he looked out of place, as in he seemed surprised to be getting a prize. The prize was for the most improved student in JS2 (I also donated a prize for the most improved student in SS2).
I guess he learnt that there are many ways to “win” and I hope it spurred him and all those who have received those prizes for the last four years, on to more improvements. Indeed I wish I could give prizes to all those who continuously improve themselves. Are you worthy?
Some schools don’t use positions anymore and students have to gauge themselves based on the class average overall score. Smart for this fragile generation with its more fragile parents. It also teaches the lesson about winning without coming first. As we adults continue the rat race, we have to learn to “win” like that too; the standard being the measurable (indeed SMART) goals we set for ourselves morally, spiritually, fitness-wise, career wise, in business and even in dancing (try shaku shaku). Win everyday by making improvements no matter how small. Give yourself a prize and then forge ahead. Pace yourself but know that you can still do better.