Every year about this time, some school somewhere in America has a serious discussion about whether to have “graduations” or “promotions” in the grades prior to high school. It seems like either would work, but there always seems to be one who feels very strongly that the two terms are not interchangeable. Both are noteworthy occasions, but I will address only promotions on this blog.

      During school, it seems one is always in the business of promoting himself.  Students show us how quickly they can attain knowledge and how well they can retain and apply that knowledge.  They sing and act and play sports… all to gain notoriety, and, hopefully, scholarships to greater institutions at which to promote themselves so that they can, in turn, gain a job, in which they can once again promote themselves so as to gain better paying positions.

     Wow.  I teach a book in my AP English Language and Composition class called Everything’s an Argument.”  I thought that boiled everything down to a single action.  I guess I’ve pretty much done the same thing!

      Sounds kind of vain on our part, doesn’t it?  It’s not really, though.  The problem with waiting for everyone to notice what you’re doing is that every one else is waiting for you to notice what they are doing.  You know how you’ll wear something special or have a really great hair day, and no one even notices?  That’s because they have worn something special or had a great hair day themselves, and they are waiting for you to notice!

      So how do we teach our kids to promote themselves without turning them into egotistical windbags?  I’d say honesty is the best policy here.  We have to cultivate a relationship in which we can not only praise, but constructively criticize as well.  Some parents of our PreK students tell us of daycares where no criticizing or saying, “I don’t like that behavior” is allowed.  Instead, their misbehaving child has his attention refocused so that he forgets that thing about which he is having a fit.  Good grief!  Have children become that fragile?!

     It’s necessary that your child not be right or win every time.  He must experience loss while you’re there to respond to his reaction.  Gifted kids will accept the idea that you win because you are older and more experienced, especially if you praise their improvements from the last time this was addressed.  Protecting your kids from failure is an epic failure.  Teach them to recognize when they’ve done poorly and when they’ve done well.  Then teach them not to brag about accomplishments, but instead bring them to someone’s attention when those accomplishments warrant a promotion.  For example, a doubly-promoted student letting her peers know that she’s the smartest in the class will only cause them to laugh at her for something else – her physical prowess or her looks, for instance.  But offering to help with peer tutoring will cause the teacher to promote her mental abilities to the whole class. 

     As a teacher and principal, I will tell you what I look for when I seek to “promote” someone to a particular position or club (like student council or honor society). I look for the servant heart.  True leaders understand that great leaders lead from the front.  The kid who thinks beyond herself to the needs of others is potentially a great leader, and that’s a promotion worth pursuing!

-          Michelle