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Playing the Long Game- It’s Worth It

In the age of instant gratification, schools continue to defy the odds. Real-time payments, video-on-demand, a need for something…NOW. I described teaching to someone the other day as “playing the long game in an instantaneous landscape”. Where students are craving the next fad, teachers are meticulously and carefully crafting a logical succession of steps to teach their students the concept at hand. Unfortunately, (from the student’s point of view), while Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is the teaching of direct proportion, geometric proofs or covalent bonding.

For many in the teaching profession, it is only now, at the pointy end of the year, that we take stock and look at how far our students have (hopefully) come. With the oddly-unique demands of the job (how many other professions are strictly bound by bells signalling the beginning and end of an allocation of precious time?), many of us are focused on short-term outcomes and sometimes fail to acknowledge just how much progress has been made in the 40-odd week journey.

Some of our boys have excelled from where they started in January; many have worked tirelessly to achieve things they may not have thought possible. Alongside them, through each and every day, not just in the moment, has been the teacher. Acting sometimes as a sounding board, sometimes as a mentor, sometimes as a guiding light, always as an agent of change, the role of an effective teacher in a child’s life cannot be taken for granted or undervalued in today’s society.

“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” James Cash Penney

Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to return to the school I worked at before joining ATC in 2015. There, I was able to farewell the graduates of 2017, many of them who I taught in Years 7-9. I have remained in contact with several of them over the years and it was both emotional and highly rewarding for me to see their transformation into young adults going out into the real world.

If asked at the beginning of Year 7, would “student x” become the College Captain five years later, I would have said no chance. As teachers and parents, we must not fall into the trap of “writing off” or dismissing someone because they aren’t where we want them to be RIGHT NOW. Like tending to a garden, students need support and encouragement and take time to develop and flourish. It’s hard work but the reward is great.

All too soon, in 2019, as a community, we will be able to reflect on how our current Year 10s have developed and flourished in their time at ATC. As we draw to the end of the year, as teachers and parents, reflect on how your son has grown in 2017. What have you achieved together? Have you celebrated the successes? Have you embraced the bad times and learnt from them so that history doesn’t repeat? In a world where we are constantly pressed for time, remember we only have a finite amount of it so use every minute wisely. All 1440 of them we have each day. All 525 600 of them in a year.

I hope everyone in our community has a wonderful holiday and festive season. Enjoy the time spent with family and friends and remember to play the long game. It really is worth it.

Patrick Behan, Middle School Faculty Coordinator - STEM