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Walking the Tightrope

In the midst of the busyness of assignments and exams that was all encompassing in the last weeks of Term 2, it can sometimes be hard for students to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Often, the end of semester is a period of high stress, with some students struggling with self-worth and motivation. Parents and teachers often walk tight ropes, trying to be voices of encouragement and reassurance.

This can be hard, when results aren’t necessarily forthcoming. Hopefully the holiday period has provided the opportunity for students and families to decompress, reflecting on what worked well and areas for improvement. Research has indicated that motivation is a key ingredient to student success. What is it that parents and educators can do, to enhance the motivation of students (particularly if they don’t perceive they are succeeding)? Enhanced Learning and Educational Services have identified 5 key things that parents and educators can do, to help maintain motivation at critical times. As we begin a new semester, full of new opportunities, I would strongly encourage parents to emphasise these with their students.

1. Encouraging Personal Best
Not every child is naturally academic; not every child will find school easy. At ATC we try hard to value the range of talents of our students – whether they be academic, service, cultural or sporting. Encouraging students to aim for their own personal best and personal improvement, helps avoid comparisons with other students or siblings. At all times, students should be encouraged to adopt a ‘growth mindset’, identifying goals for improvement.
2. Focus on Strengths
All children have the potential to succeed, but sometimes we need to redefine success. Look for opportunities to celebrate these types of successes along the way, no matter how small. Where possible, identify these early in a term to build the momentum of your son. Positive acknowledgment can result in greater investments of effort.
3. Help Students Seek Help
Sometimes a sense of fear debilitates students. If you suspect this is an issue, look for ways to provide support for your child. Consider reaching out to Homeroom Teachers, Year Level Coordinators, Heads of Department or the College Counsellors. Take the support on offer.
4. Examine How You Treat Failure
One of the biggest enemies of motivation is fear of failure. Children need to see ‘failure’ as an opportunity to learn from mistakes, to grown and improve. Think about how you personally react when you fail at something or it doesn’t go as you planned. Do you model to your child that a setback is an opportunity to gain information to help you for next time?
5. Avoid Negative Talk
Statements like: “I wasn’t good at Maths either”, can give students an excuse not to try. Instead, empathise with your child by explaining the challenges you had and identifying how you worked to overcome them. This can be very helpful because it assists student understanding that struggle is a normal part of the learning experience.

Teachers across the College are very mindful of each of these strategies in their dealings with students. Students should have available to them constructive feedback from Semester One, which they can use to formulate this term’s goals and strategies.

Today we welcomed facilitators from Elevate Education. Year 7 students were given tips for effective note taking, mind mapping and dynamic reading to assist with their Study Skills. Year 8 focused on Time Management covering areas including balancing their time around hobbies, sport and homework. They were given handy hints for homework and tips for reviewing school lessons and managing exam and assessment deadlines.

I look forward to seeing Middle School parents at this evening’s Study Skills information session from 6.30pm – 7.30pm in the NJ Hall. We will be covering areas including study techniques, learning styles and how to build a study timetable.

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