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Writing Improvements are Transforming Future Opportunities

As I write this blog I’m very definitely feeling the pressure. Picture me sitting up the back of Ian Hunter’s Writing Workshop for Year 9 students. Some of the writing is phenomenal. Teachers, as well as students, are actively writing. I have just penned a piece that is okay – but I know that my sentences are too long. I need to make better use of the power sentence. It’s always been my challenge.

Ian has the boys setting goals for their own writing. They are actively diagnosing their individual writing challenges. Remarkably insightful, one student suggests he needs to vary his sentence lengths. His writing is overly monotonous with too many simple sentences. Another points to a lack of variation in style. Specifically, he wants to work on the em-dash sentence structure. And another points to his word economy, suggesting a need to better cast the explore the subject sentence. These boys are impressive. What’s even more impressive is how far they’ve come in the space of a year.

The term is less than 24 hours old, but already it has begun with gusto. Those of you who have been following our learning journey over the past year, will know that we have been focussed on improving standards of boys’ writing. We do this because writing matters. It’s not about lifting NAPLAN results for their own sake. It’s about improving the capacity of boys to demonstrate what they know on a page, and, in so doing, transforming their post-school opportunities. Our partnership with Ian Hunter is very much a part of this journey.

This week, Ian is working as part of a Writer in Residence Program. In particular, he is focussing on extension students, turning their writing from good to great. On Wednesday evening, he will be working with parents, highlighting key areas for focus, so that parents too, can partner with us on this journey. Pleasingly, this event is already near to capacity with only 5 seats remaining. Click here to reserve your seat.

Writing isn’t our only focus. Any day at Ambrose Treacy College is a busy one. Today is particularly so. A key initiative this year is to build a language around learning, In other words, boys need to not talk abstractly about working harder. They need to materially understand what strategies will be most yielding for themselves. Our Year 11s are working with presenters from Elevate Education today, as part of this project. The session’s focus is on mapping motivation and developing goals. It also explores how students can build to peak performance. Beginning the term this way is an important investment. In short, we are signalling an intention, starting as we mean to end.
Another key project in learning is to build student engagement in the Sciences.

Greg Quinn, an experienced senior physics teacher, has worked alongside our primary school staff for the last couple of years, to build a hands on, engaging experience for boys. Today, as an extension of that initiative, boys in Year 6 will be working with a team of presenters from Big Bang Science. Their focus is on electrical energy, electrical circuits and renewable energy. By the end of the session, they will have creeated different types of circuits for different purposes. Sessions are hands on, but importantly, they are higher order. Students aren’t just following processes. They are engaged in design thinking, refining understanding and problem solving.

A day in the life of learning at ATC is always busy. In 1979 Cardinal Dearden noted the importance of playing the long game. To quote from Dearden:

“No set of goals and objectives includes everything
We plant the seeds that one day will grow
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise
We lay foundations that will need further development
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities
We cannot do everything, and there is a liberation in realising that
This enables us to do something, and do it very well”

Behind the busyness of what we do in ‘Learning’ is intention of that something. At ATC, it is clear – engagement, skill development and a life-long disposition towards improvement.

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