Merits @ WCC

Abby T (Year 10)

When a student commences their William Clarke career, it is made clear to them that merits are a recompense for good behaviour within the classroom and the school. The excitement and pride receiving a merit, telling your parent, them maybe even coming to a presentation of the merit is palpable, and, a little cute.

The aim of the merit system is to encourage students to attain a high standard of behaviour. It promotes equal grounds for everyone to be able to work hard at something and achieve extraordinary lengths (being our school’s moto). But as students mature, does not good behaviour, initiative, service, and application become the norm and not the exception? Isn’t that the result of the positive reinforcement of the merit system? If that is the case, then do the merits lose value when students are recognised for making small improvements on poor behaviour, but students who constantly achieve are overlooked because their behaviour is considered acceptable?

In talking to students from Year 8, they felt as though there were ‘mixed standards’ for attaining a merit. The truth is, there isn’t a real ‘rulebook’ as to what a ‘worthy merit earner’ looks like. So, when talking to students that had more merits, they suggested, “maybe it is just because of my teachers”. It appears even the students aren’t sure what will warrant a merit and obtaining one is more random and impromptu than any real concerted effort on students’ behalf…

So, then the question is: what value does a merit hold for a high school student?  Is the recognition sufficient to warrant the effort? Gone are the days mum and dad come to take photos at presentation, or giving you an extra dessert treat for your efforts on shopping day; these days, an extra green box on Connect is all a merit is worth. The merits don’t hold much value anymore particularly because the students are generally now valuable contributing members of the school and wider community and are able to measure their own behaviour and results by a set of their own standards.

So, the questions continue: are there ways to recognise students that are not trivial and contrite? And are there practices the students can learn to implement their own personal methods of motivation for achieving results? This would be more useful because, let’s be honest; not many employers of bank managers will give you a merit for doing your job or paying your bills on time!