However to me, there's more to this picture than initally meets the eyes. For a start, the sheer exciteness and happiness of two students celebrating their status as our top academic students is billboard-worthy and a stark message to the Aorere College community that academic sccess is cool and sure as heck, worthing celebrating. Both Salvis and Emeline are fantastic people as well as academically capable but more than that, they are big thinkers, capable of making it on the global stage.
This photo is also important in that it shows how important academic success is in our school. To be honest, for a number of my early years at Aorere College, the dux status was not as publically high or as visible. The significant cup in the hands of Emeline and Salvis was only donated around 3-4 years ago by the Pullan family, alumni of Aorere College and a highly successful group of academics. The Pullans wanted to make a statement about the importance of academic success both within our school and beyond. Hence the impressive size of the cup. The Pullans were collectively determined that the tropphy awarded to the top academic student each year should be the biggest and most prominent by far. Here they made no mistake. Throughout the year, this trophy sits in a very public position in our reception area. I have lost count of how parents, visitors and students (past, current and future) have taken a moment or two to view or ponder this impressive statement.
The unrestrained excitement and joy on both Salvis and Emeline's faces also speak volumes and loudly. Too often in my opinion, academic success is humbly, quietly received and celebrated while the top sportsman or sportswoman is exalted, maybe beyond appropriateness. In a country blessed with the best rugby players on the planet, often the dux is not is not seen as the most sought after award in a school. Here, Salvis and Emeline do a PR job on our students that no lecturn speech or manufactured ceremony could ever attain. What is not captured by this photo is the extraordinary reaction by the audience in attendance. In 16 years of academic prizegivings, I have never seen such an inclusive yet apsirational response. Salvis & Emeline were above any other student in terms of academic attainment in 2016 yet not in arrogance, distance or ignorance. Here we had two Pasifika students who were culturally-proud, leaders and academic successes. What role models!
For me, the other enduring feature of this image is that while there are teachers and board members visible in the photo (including our principal), it is the students front and centre, as it should be but not as it always is. If it is apt that Salvis and Emeline are the key individuals in the image, it is essential therefore that the Salvis & Emelines are front and centre in the classroom or learning space. For me, this doesn't always seem so. Often the only time, our most elite academic students, and those a little behind are the focus of academics is in the prizegivings. Often in a classroom, the students are the consumers over producers, the audience and not the performers. As the photo symbolises, students should always be the driver of academic pursuits. Teachers should surround and support but not star.
This pic is so brilliant because it was a case of our photographer being in the right place at the right time. It is also awesome as here we have two individuals more than willing to share just how much this achievement meant to each of them. The more of these celebrations, the more of these images shared and admired, the better in my opinion. For the benefit of students today and tomorrow and the teachers and communities of today and tomorrow, celebrate on!