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Learning News Week 3 Term 4

Is this really 'edible earth'?

On Friday of last week, students and parents received their academic assessment calendar. The aim of front-ending assessment is consistent with setting students up for success. For most students, success is not something that just happens instantaneously. That can be frustrating when we live in age of almost immediate gratification.

Today, many of our students know a world where what they see is what they want, and what they want is what they get. Academic success doesn’t work that way. A former colleague of mine often used to talk about the importance of ‘sweating the small stuff’. Sweating the small stuff means that it is less likely that you have to worry about the big stuff. In terms of academic success, ‘small stuff’ matters. With respect to learning, ‘the small stuff’ is about habit formation and routine.

I don’t know much about sport, but Wayne Bennett, a successful coach, talks about the value of ‘muscle memory’. His philosophy is to organise training sessions which are based around basic routines: passing, catching, tackling. I am reliably informed that Rugby games are won and lost on these things. While there is a place for strategy and big game play, neither will work if the basics aren’t well executed.

Why is this important in Week 3, Term 4?
Success in the Semester Two academic report, is influenced by the actions your sons take now. We are at the end of a very busy year. It’s tempting for some boys to lose focus. Some, may be struggling for motivation. Now is the time when muscle memory needs to kick in. Success or academic progress, won’t be the product of an all-nighter in Week 7. It will come if your son is willing to spend time on homework now. It will come if your son is willing to set out his book work in a manner which is conducive to his own study. It will come if your son doesn’t put off until tomorrow, what can be done today.

The other key to success is to build capacity where it counts. Rugby league players don’t demonstrate their Rugby proficiency in dance. Singers don’t demonstrate their singing proficiency in swimming. Boys must sweat the small stuff, and practice their revision in the form in which they will be tested. If they have a Maths test, then this involves completing fluency and problem solving questions in timed conditions, showing their working. If they have a 600-word essay in History, then this should involve extended writing practice. Importantly, what matters as much as the mode in which students practice, is the disposition to improve. Like sportsmen trained by Wayne Bennett, students need to be driven to find their errors, analyse patterns in error making, and respond accordingly. All of this takes time. Leaving it to the last minute is like running on for the Grand Final, having done a single session in the gym.

It's dirty work down in Year 4!

As teachers, we pass these lessons on to our students regularly. If your son is telling you he doesn’t have anything to do, he is misrepresenting reality, cutting corners, and setting himself up for failure. One of the things I like about Wayne Bennett is that he doesn’t look to make excuses. He has a way of cutting to the chase and telling it as it is. Over the course of this term, teachers have been challenging students to be their best selves. Sometimes, this involves a frank assessment of what needs to be done, always with the aim of inspiring effort and personal excellence. Parents who have concerns about their sons, can assist us by getting in contact with teachers to discuss areas for their son’s improvement. Through conversation and partnership, we can work together to sweat the small stuff, and establish a strong foundation for success. Your sons deserve nothing less!

Kath LIttle, Dean of Learning
littlek@atc.qld.edu.au