Principal, Secondary Years Message

Celebrating achievements is an important aspect for any school community.

Awards send a message of positive reinforcement for the recipients, saying ‘We see, we take notice and we recognize you’.

And, if the types of awards are placed within the reach of each and every student, awards can also work as a motivation tool for other students.

On Friday 9 June 2017, we had our first Secondary Years division Awards ceremony, building on the success of last year’s all school assembly.

Below is an excerpt from the speech I gave, pondering about what success, achievement and contribution mean in the context of an international school in the 21st century.

I wish you all a very relaxing and safe summer holiday.

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Dear students, parents, colleagues,

Welcome to the Secondary Years Awards Ceremony! Tonight is about celebrating our students, their successes, achievements and contributions to school life in front of their peers. Allow me to elaborate on these words – success, achievement, contribution. What do they mean in an international school setting? What do they mean in the context of the changing times 21st century bring us?

Let me set the scene with a quote by Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States: Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. What this means in the context of education is two-fold: 1) success or achievement isn’t about pass or fail on a single assignment; success is a long-term endeavor. This is what the phrase ‘life-long learning’ is about. This is what we try to prepare for as a school. 2) success or achievement is individualized – as much as universities love to rank their applicants by a simple number, everyone develops, learns and matures differently, and starts their learning journey from a different starting position. The measurement of success should therefore take place against individual progress indicators, and measure success in a range of different areas – again, we all succeed differently.

Probably as important as achievement and success is contribution. The best way to understand the importance of this type of award is simply look at some of the phrases we used in our contribution awards: specific efforts, outside the academic curriculum, above and beyond, beyond the norm, and others. ‘Contributing’ is the essence of the IB programmes – it can be found in the MYP Service action, DP Creativity, Activity, Service, as well as the Learner profile attributes. That’s why we have included recognitions such as the Buddy Award to recognize a student who has consistently gone out their way to befriend and make welcome other students.

The types of awards which will be handed out tonight reflect the approach I have just described: there are academic, sports and arts awards, but there are also teacher awards and contribution awards to recognize and celebrate the diversity of our student body. Please listen to why students deserve the awards, the justification, the narrative and you will understand what success, achievement and contributions really are.

I would like to congratulate all students for a very success academic year – every one of you made invaluable contributions. You are the school. I would like to express special congratulations to all of the nominees – there is only one winner per category but being nominated is an achievement in itself. You all have gone over and beyond.

Thank you to the amazing Secondary Years teachers and staff for a very successful first year as the Secondary Years division, and for your awards nominations and votes on the awards.

Thank you to the parents for entrusting your children to us – you can have them back at 8pm tonight!

Thank you and enjoy the evening.

Jan Stipek, Secondary Years Principal

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