EDUCATORS have the power to encourage or destroy children’s confidence with their words.
This was a key message in the first talk of the 2017 Careers and Transition Education Association (CATE) conference held in Invercargill last week.
Held at ILT Stadium Southland, the conference attracted hundreds of educators and careers guidance professionals attending from throughout New Zealand.
The first speaker was Lucy Cruickshank-Griffiths, an independent marketing consultant now based in the Wairarapa, but who grew up in Invercargill.
Before launching her own business eight years ago, Mrs Cruickshank-Griffiths had worked for several big-brand New Zealand food and wine companies as a marketing and sales promoter for their premium products around the world.
However, she had never forgotten the words of some of her first teachers in those early years and the powerful effects those words had.
At the age of six, she remembered a primary school teacher asking her to sing the popular song Puff the Magic Dragon.
The teacher told her she had a gift with her singing voice and she shouldn’t let it go to waste.
Those words encouraged Mrs Cruickshank-Griffiths’ talent for singing and she went on to sing with a local choir, she said.
Combining her interest in Maori culture, Mrs Cruickshank-Griffiths also sang waiata to foreign clients when they visited a Marlborough vineyard she worked on.
“Thank you for identifying that gift in me. Words can plant seeds of self-belief or they can tear down confidence.”
Still at primary school, her confidence was torn down when she put on weight and began to be bullied.
At age 12 she weighed 80kg, she said. To her horror, in front of the class, a teacher used her weight as a quantity in a maths equation. In a negative spiral, by age 15 she weighed 115kg.
Nonetheless, she loved school and through becoming a Christian and with support and love from her family, she learned self-compassion and then discipline through exercising, she said.
“Children need to learn to love themselves before they can change.”
She lost weight and eventually went on to compete in a half ironman competition.
“Strangers stopped me and told me I was doing a great thing.”
School teachers also helped grow her passion for horticulture and agriculture, which led to her career in the food and wine industry.
At James Hargest College she was encouraged to follow her heart and study horticulture and and agriculture, despite the subject being looked down on at the time.
Her teacher planned field trips to carrot and tulip farms so the children could see how these industries worked.
“Research shows most people never learn what their gifts are and go on to work in jobs they tolerate. As teachers, you have the ability to inspire, to form passions.”
Southland CATE member and national executive representative Brigid More, a careers adviser at Verdon College, said the talk was heartening.
“You sometimes think one comment doesn’t make a difference, but it really can.”