As a teacher there is little which vexes me more than hearing students unjustly praised, but there is little which delights me more than hearing students justly praised. That’s why I love end of the year awards ceremonies. Several weeks ago, the Veritas upper school faculty gathered to choose the winners of the Heart of the Lion Award, a prize which goes to the male student and female student who best exemplify our goals and ideals. Prior to the session wherein faculty hash out the winner, any teacher is allowed to nominate whoever they like. Later, every teacher who nominated a student makes a case on their behalf before all the other secondary teachers. There is no annual event which makes me quite so proud to be a teacher as to hear my colleagues offer praise for students who have earned it.
At the faculty meeting wherein the winners are determined, the zeal and heartfelt honesty with which teachers praise students is genuinely moving. These meetings are often full of surprises, as well. Students who perform unremarkably for one teacher often turn in brilliant work for others. Teachers tell stories of their students saying brilliant things, resisting temptations, and displaying uncommon virtues. They recount hidden instances of this or that student taking the blame, owning up to their sins, helping, working, dying to themselves… And a student who doesn’t click with me might click with other teachers and vice versa. No single teacher has an absolute, flawless academic or spiritual barometer on any student. This is a delightful thing to remember.
Obviously, the winner of an annual award really ought to be sorted out at the end of the year. And yet, part of me thinks it would be immensely helpful to have the end of the year discussion at the beginning of the year, too. I’d like to go into the school year hearing my colleagues give impassioned pleas for the greatness of our students. It would help me lift the banner higher.