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Over the years, as Principal at Virtual High School, I have keenly observed the behaviour of our former student, Justin Bieber. While various media often hyperbolically cover Justin’s antics–spray-painting graffiti, egging his neighbour’s house, drag racing, recklessly handling his ATV–to mention only a few such instances, let’s remember that principals and parents wrestle with such types of activities in most schools and in many families every day. Stardom always causes the microscope to be hauled out, and the gravity of such situations usually becomes distorted. The frequency of Justin’s actions did suggest an unfortunate trend, however.

I did not watch the AMAs, but later, as my wife followed a re-run on her phone with the speaker on, I joined her. When Justin won this eighth award (lifetime), I leaned over the back of her chair and observed his acceptance—after all, he was a former student. Like most viewers, I was expecting an arrogant, angry, Justin to either reinforce the image the media were building about him or to fake the opposite. The acceptance clip unfolded in one minute.

Initially, Justin was asked to start his acceptance with an appearance by Skrillex, but instead of putting himself in the centre of the brief spot, he used his time to introduce Diplo and Skrillex. My immediate thought was that this was a classy thing to do—Justin giving up some of the limelight, but I still expected Justin to use his 15 seconds to directly or indirectly seek the adulation of his millions of fans.

Surprisingly, Justin stood quietly to the side, observing his two music collaborators without seeking attention from the crowd or the cameras. As the spot ended, he genuinely smiled and congratulated Skrillex when he finished. Mr. Bieber ignored the mic altogether, then strolled off-stage.

I like this new, mature Justin. I am proud of the changes I see in our former student.


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Steve Baker, Principal and CEO of Virtual High School.