As a member of staff at my children’s school, I spent a compulsory four hours last night as a ‘House Marshall’ at the annual Swimming Carnival. I hate swimming with a passion, always have, always will. I just cannot see the fun in throwing my arms around until my lungs are about to explode. Nor do I enjoy watching other people torture themselves. So this job was definitely not a labour of love. It did, however, have an unexpected good side. I learned that there is hope for our children, despite the horror stories the media like to throw at us.
Take, for example, the case of our Primary Head Boy. I had expected to spend the night shouting myself hoarse, trying to get kids into line for their races. Instead I watched in wonder as this twelve-year-old chivvied them to where they were supposed to be, without bossing, shouting or fuss. He told them what to do and they did it. It was like watching a General at work.
Then there was the two fifteen-year-old girls, who took it upon themselves to be cheerleaders. They got the kids cheering when we won, they got them cheering when we lost. Late in the evening, one little girl from our team, tired out from earlier races, found herself half a lap behind in her race. Rather than let her swim that half a lap in silence because all the others had finished, these two girls got our team screaming and shouting her name, urging her to finish. When she did, the whole lot cheered as if she’d won. It was enough to bring a tear to the eye.
Not once in the whole night did I hear a negative word said to a child who hadn’t gained a place in their race. They were just praised for trying. When the teachers cheated in the final staff vs students race, (number three jumping in with flippers on while number two was still twenty metres from the wall), the kids took it in the spirit it was meant – just fun. It made me proud to be a part of it, even if I hadn’t wanted to be there!