By STEPHANIE OSFIELD
It’s that time of year, parents. Prefects pandemonium is about to descend in primary schools across the nation.
This diehard year five school ritual sees kiddie candidates facing off in true Hunger Games fashion. So what’s the inside running on the ones who make it to the finish line?
If your child is planning to put their hand up this year, get swatting. I’ve asked around and here are the top ten tips from parents who’ve been there:
Tip 1: If you’ve got a girl, she should get hair extensions. And spanx shapewear – comes in tweens sizes now doesn’t it? Feminism? Just imagine it never happened.
Doesn’t matter what wonderful words escape your child’s lips – pretty and skinny rule and that’s all the girls in the lower years who don’t really know your girl, will care about. Remember, they are voting for a Princess not a prefect.
Use girls in Barbie or My Pony ads as your style guide. Go the sheer lip gloss. And short hair? No way. Not versatile enough to offer multiple hairstyles at assemblies. Think long hair worn with alpha attitude (and just the right selection of frilly hairbands). A girl captain with a pixie cut like Michelle Williams or Carey Mulligan? Never gonna happen mon ami.
Tip 2: Teach your child this phrase “I am a leader”. Encourage them to name-drop it throughout their speech. If they get elected they are gonna need those leadership skills. To do important awe-inspiring jobs like… raising and lowering the flag at school. Passing around sandwich platters when someone of note visits.
Stacking chairs. Oh and most importantly, holding a microphone to ask teachers, “Are there any other announcements?” And carrying the microphone and putting the microphone away and… um… You know other… stuff… that they will look back on later and think – that was a turning point – you know, when I realized what an honour and mighty life affirming deed it was to, you know, be the boss of that microphone – by showing it I was the leader.
Tip 3: Stock up on supplies for the elimination rounds. Your child will need energy boosting snacks for the endurance edge when their rivals are lined up for the interviews in the pre-speech eliminations. Warn your kiddie they will need to steel themselves. Because half of year five (predominantly girls) will also be there. Y’ know going for the coveted microphone wrangling jobs.
Next must have? A bottomless supply of tissues. For anyone who doesn’t make it to the speeches round – they will soon be dropping like flies and sporting bloodshot eyes from all that sobbing. If your child gets through and their besties don’t, remind them this is good for their mates – it toughens them up to deal with life. Because at the ripe age of about 11 you need to know if you don’t got the stuff. Enter the raincoat. To protect against the storm of snot.
Tip 4: Keep the speech shallow. Bullying in the playground, helping out the community – no, no no – whaddya thinking? They have absolutely no place in a prefect’s speech. Nobody wants to hear about stuff that matters. Get your child to grab the attention of their peers with stunts – use stuffed toys and balloons or some well timed acrobatics – think Lady Gaga meets Cirque du Soleil.
They should throw in a few token words to pay lip service to do-goody intentions – like integrity, humility and commitment. Clueless about what they really mean? No problemo. Not too much in their prefect role will really require them to good citizenship deeds. Haven’t you been listening? They will be too busy showing that microphone they are boss. And in the rarified atmosphere of the prefect zone they will get to hang with some of the biggest bullies in the school.
Tip 5: Google ‘piranha’, order some online and have them sent to your home address. Muzzle them and get your child to practice swimming with them in the bath.
Try not to lose any toes. Then when your kiddie is waiting to do their speech between some of those bullies they will be battle hardened, less fearful of their scary sharp teeth and resilient enough to go the distance – because chances are at least some of those scary bullies WILL GO ALL THE WAY.
Tip 6: Forget that one and one make two. Not knowing how to count will prepare your child for the next totally dodgy prefect process. The one where many schools weed out candidates they don’t like or meddle with the votes for captain.
Face it – this is politics and it’s a dirty game – so don’t bother doing the sums – chances are the figures just wont add up. This is not kid’s business – it is deadset serious adults stuff – which is why most schools collect those captaincy votes by their elected prefects and give them a 360 spin– think George W Bush, Al Gore, Florida.
In the run-up to the speeches know the agenda of your school in relation to the captains – this will prepare your child in advance for the let down if he/she just can’t fit this year’s criteria. There may have been too many captains from the top academic stream for a few years so all upper level students are out or the principal just doesn’t like the blue lock of hair and Nick Cave badge worn by that cool dude going for boy captain so he’s not on the ticket.
And the precocious girl captain wannabe whose two older equally precocious sisters were also captain? She’s got it all over your child before yours even opens her mouth. Ready yourself. Steady yourself. The numbers will be massaged. You can’t fight it. No-one said politics was fair. Or fun. Make it through to the final round and you will be expected to look the other way.
Tip 7: Your child should mention they are a champion. No, not at maths or spelling, silly. In sport. Soccer, football, basketball, cricket – these are the things that count most. What’s that? Child not really sporty? Holy shamoley! What are you standing there for? Get them to hit the deck and do ten push-ups.
Sign up for boot camp. You will need a full blown regime of Olympic style training. Use the Biggest Loser as your guide and push them to pump it, sweat and go for the burn. Make your child work that body until he/she is a regional distance runner, in the swimming squad and boasting a personal trainer for Little Athletics.
When the day of the speech finally arrives, your child should mention that word again. Champion. They should say it slowly. C H A M P I O N. Say it loud. Say it proud. Say it over and over until every kid in that hall is clear that they have superior DNA.
For sprinting, not necessarily thinking. The fact that there’s no connection between the speed of quadriceps and the ability to be a good school citizen? NO-ONE WILL CARE. When your child is flashing those gold medals and blinding their peers with their bedazzling sports hero glow they will be awesome. Because sport is awesome. Creative writing chops? Not so awesome. Just not.
Tip 8: Make sure your child includes a pop song. Preferably a stupid mega hit one with easy lyrics that everyone can sing along to. Get the crowd into the yob zone. They should treat their audience like they are a mob at a rock concert and they will remember them when the time comes to put those ticks or ones in the boxes.
Tip 9: Rub people’s noses in your child’s stellar kiddie CV (and make sure it reads like War and Peace). List everything your child has ever done that proves they are a winner. Doesn’t matter if the award was just for picking their nose or borrowing library books they never actually read– if there was a contest for anything and they aced it – make sure they spill it in the speech.
They could be the most friendly, giving and thoughtful team player in the galaxy – but if they didn’t win a competition that said they can do it, no-one will have noticed and if it didn’t come with a certificate or medallion, it won’t give them any useable street cred.
Tip 10: Get your child to practice playing dumb. Channel the Nike approach to speech rules and Just Do It. Then your child won’t be limited by sticking to the game plan everyone else thought they are supposed to follow. Go the unfair advantage over the other candidates by coaching your child to run their speech long or bring half the class on stage to do a comedy skit with them. Don’t worry that the rules said they weren’t supposed to.
Once they have done it and the kids are rolling in the aisles and totally on side, the teachers will fear a riot if they disqualify your child, even if they know they’ve had an unfair advantage. Watch those votes roll in. They are a legend now. On their way. To being a leader. Of the microphone.
Stephanie Osfield is an award winning health journalist and newbie blogger. To read her posts about issues like debriefing your kids about world tragedy, how bullying harms your child’s brain and research linking calcium supplements to heart disease, go to her blog Savvy by Stephanie Osfield. Or touch base with Steph on Twitter: @stephosfield
Got a story about prefect selection at your child’s school you’d like to share? Should all year 6s be put on a roster so they get to be leaders in their last year of primary? Should the selection process be changed to be more meaningful?