The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Sense of Accomplishment - Self-esteem

Just last week I attended an evening for our Year 9 students on their Year 10 Personal Project for the next academic year. While I was suitably impressed by Ms Kate Flowers' presentation on the rationale, structure, support and examples of the types of projects which have been completed in the past, the evening for me was made a success by two Year 10 students and their mothers. The presentations by Samuel McConachy (Shearer) and his mum Kate and Lewis Miller (Anderson) and his mum Liz unashamedly presented a sense of accomplishment on their completion of their Personal Project. They all spoke of the lessons learnt and skills developed beyond the curriculum in studying something individual to them.

On Friday evening, I ventured down to Dwellingup to see our 19 Year 11 students and four staff complete their 50 Mile Walk. This epic event saw the students rise at about 3.00am on Friday and walk for 18 hours to complete their 50 mile journey. Seeing them at 8.00pm, as they walked through Dwellingup, the students were quite understandably exhausted. To see them again just after 9.00pm, the sense of accomplishment and relief transformed these students.

In each of the above cases there was a clear sense of accomplishment from these very different, but challenging activities; one more academic, long-term and individual. The other initially more physical, but equally mental, given the magnitude of the task. In an article in Psychology Today, Richard Cytowic states, "If you want self-esteem, then do estimable things. Accomplishments and know-how can't be handed out or downloaded into someone's brain like they are for the characters in The Matrix. They must be earned through individual effort. It is the endeavour that generates a sense of pride and inward esteem" He goes on to mention in the article that studies have confirmed that 'satisfaction is an inside game' and that false praise and the self-esteem movement has 'hobbled' the millennial generation.

Striving, failing and learning to succeed develops self-esteem and calls on the emotion of pride. Esteem and related emotions instil a sense of success and the confidence that you can accomplish whatever you set out to do. Achieving such a state, however, is not possible without discipline and a willingness to take a risk. Failure, when it happens, is never the end of the world, and building up a tolerance for rejection builds up the courage to take a risk knowing that only some will come to fruition. The advantage of such a strategy is that it assures a continual string of positive results. When set back, as everyone is from time to time, one will be able to bounce back and try again.

Opportunities to take risks, in a supportive and encouraging environment, are what make Scotch College a special place. While academic performance remains the first priority, I like to consider it first amongst equals, it is often the opportunity beyond a specific list of subjects, within or beyond the co-curricular domain where some of the biggest lessons can be learnt. The opportunity to be your personal best.

Mr Dean Shadgett
Head of Senior School