Yesterday I visited a local secondary school to help with a business enterprise day for their Year 9 students (aged 13/14).
The group I helped with comprised 4 teams with between 4 and 7 students per team. Their task throughout the day was to create a business that designs and manufactures paper ducks for selling to potential buyers’. Materials were provided, including paper for making the ducks and a range of extras for decorating and enhancing the finished product.
Meeting and observing the students was fascinating. Some were confident, some felt they’d a lot to offer, some were team leaders and some were just bossy!
However, there was another group that caught my eye. These were the students who were shy, lacked confidence, were easily distracted and retreated into their own worlds, could so easily be overlooked or had been identified with special needs. On the face of it, there wasn’t a lot they could offer in the face of more boisterous and confident competition.
In reality, they were some of the most significant contributors to the day’s activities once they were engaged.
The groups who included these students in their discussions and activities benefitted from a whole range of skills and insights that may otherwise have been overlooked or lost:
- Organisational skills
- Sorting skills
- Creative skills
- The ability to single-mindedly apply themselves to the task they’d been given
- People skills (an unexpected one this)
- The ability to think wider than the problem
- The ability to see different kinds of solutions
I was very interested that the winning group was ‘organised’ by a student who does not have a reputation for shining in lessons. She organised, steered, encouraged and to quote the girl giving feedback, ” … was the boss!”
From that same group came one of the most insightful comments of the day.
As part of their ‘selling’ exercise, each group had to state why their particular products should be chosen. Again, a ‘special needs’ student stated quite simply,
“Because ours are made with love!”
What a beautifully simple selling point. Their paper ducks weren’t just ordinary ducks, put together on some production line, each one a replica of the other; they were special because they were each made with love. Care, attention and a bit of the maker had been invested in these little paper creations. That won it for me!
Ability is far more than getting answers right or doing lessons well in class. There are so many people who have skills that get lost in the crowd, or lost in the noise and activity of others around them.
Diamonds rarely just appear on the surface; they must sought after, discovered and often mined from great depths in the earths crust.
I have been reminded to spend more time looking for those gems that, once found, stand out from those around them, and to invest time and effort in encouraging them to use their talents and gifts.