Many years ago in a little church in the south of America, there was a heated discussion about silver beavers and dead badgers. It came about when a long-serving Sunday School teacher retired. What should the church give her as a thank-you gift? She was much loved and the church wanted to show her how much she would be missed. But then someone spoke up and said that the church shouldn’t give her anything because then it would have to get a gift for everyone who retired or finished their time in a ministry. What if they forgot or overlooked someone? What if someone missed out? How would others feel that had left prior to her and not received anything?
The Pastor summed up the situation in his southern drawl, “The way I see it is that we can either give her a silver beaver or a dead badger.” There was a stunned silence so the Pastor went on to explain. “By not saying thank you in some way, it would be like handing her a dead badger, but I think she deserves a silver beaver.” Badgers aren’t popular as they are perceived by many Americans to carry rabies so a dead badger is one of the worst things you could present to someone. At best, it is unpleasant, smelly and, well, dead.
However, beavers are admired for their clever dam building and ability to modify their habitat to suit themselves. Fantasy beavers even had a starring role in the Narnia Chronicles! A silver beaver is a thing of beauty that symbolises ingenuity. Giving a symbolic silver beaver is publicly recognising the value of someone’s work.
Silver platypuses and dead possums
I think the Australian equivalent would be a dead possum or a silver platypus. Possums may be cute at a distance but the damage they can do makes them a native pest in many areas. However, we all admire platypuses for their uniqueness and shy nature.
Over the many years I’ve been at GCC, we’ve often discussed how many prizes and awards should be handed out and we all feel for the students who try their best but don’t make it on stage for recognition. Some schools don’t hand out awards at all because they don’t want to upset the students who may not receive an award. Other schools go to the opposite extreme and it is like, “every child wins a prize”.
At GCC we made the decision a long time ago to hand out silver beavers (or platypuses) rather than dead badgers (or possums). For this reason, we hold our end-of-year events to present students with an award or trophy that they have earned. Receiving an award is a big deal and grows in prestige every year as the College’s student population increases. We don’t downplay the importance of what they symbolise but still recognise that a person’s character is more important than any trophy.
We are proud of all of our students and grateful to our parents and caregivers for raising their children with the character and values that matter. I want to thank you all for joining me in congratulating our students on their achievements and celebrating their silver platypuses.
Mike Curtis, Principal