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17 April 2023

The Monday Briefing: Battle Theme

The Monday Briefing: Battle Theme

It’s very rare for me to be working on a Saturday. That day of the week is usually sacrosanct in terms of being a day of rest. A day for me and the family. A day to relax between busy weeks.

This past Saturday, however, was different.

I had a lot of work to clear in preparation for an extremely busy term at the College, following an extremely enjoyable Easter holiday, where my wife and I had taken our daughter skiing for the first time, which, to our relief, she really enjoyed. I also managed to spend four quality ‘Molly-Daddy’ days with her, where we were able to enjoy one another’s company before getting back to our respective schools for the new term.

I had set Saturday aside as the time to tackle my extensive list of tasks, with my wife taking Molly to meet one of her oldest friends, then off to a gymnastics themed birthday party in the afternoon. 

Peace and quiet was what I needed to get my head in the right space to be productive.

After completing the first niggly and time consuming task, I stopped for lunch, deciding to briefly turn on the TV to give myself a proper break whilst eating it.

After a short period of channel hopping, I noticed that the disappointing sequel ‘The Next Karate Kid’ was showing on Channel 4. I hadn’t been aware that there was such a film, nor that it marked the big screen debut of Hilary Swank. I watched it for the first 10 minutes or so, then turned it off so that it didn’t sully any further my fond memories of the first film, starring Ralph Macchio, and providing an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for Pat Morita, who played the inimitable Mr Miyagi.

I then had a think over the remainder of the weekend about the character, and how useful he would be at the College during the run up to the exams, even in spite of his unique teaching style, which juxtaposed completely with the disciplinarian approach of his counterpart John Kreese, who ran the Cobra Kai karate dojo. Miyagi’s encouraging, and thoughtful manner would actually fit incredibly well with our students, and his personalised method with ‘Daniel-san’ also complements very well what we do here.

There are three pieces of Miyagi wisdom that I’d really like to focus on, and explain how staff and students should consider them - particularly over the next couple of months:

‘No such thing bad student. Only bad teacher’

Whilst I agree with part of the sentiment behind this, I would add in one caveat. Perhaps it should read ‘no such thing bad student (unless they don’t listen and take on feedback). Only bad teacher. 

To maximise the chance of student success over both the short and long term, it is vital that there is a trusting and respectful relationship in place between teacher and student. Within this, the student must have faith in the ability of the teacher to bring them to the point of success by giving knowledge - but must also understand that it is their responsibility to apply it successfully. Where a teacher sees the potential for improvement, of course they should intervene - but a student must listen and then adapt accordingly.

 

‘Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, everything good. Balance bad, better pack up and go home.’

It can be tempting during this period for students to become completely obsessive over revision, with exam anxiety building to uncontrollable points. Of course, the ideal approach is to study efficiently across the whole year: to read ahead with lessons looming; to identify gaps in knowledge and work towards remedying those; to find methods and approaches which work for them long before we get to this stage.

Within the last few weeks, as Miyagi says, balance is everything. An hour of revision - twenty minutes of exercise - another hour - a break for lunch - another hour - give yourself a reward.

To quote Jack Torrance in ‘The Shining’, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’

‘The answer is only important if you ask the right question.’

Finally, I’ll turn the focus to what we are trying to do at the College in an effort to empower students to take the initiative themselves. It can be tempting to wait for the answers from staff - to revise passively or perhaps even adopt a revision programme which takes the easy way out, going over everything they know, and so not tackling the important things.

On the last day of term, we issued Easter Mock results to students following an intensive week of exams, and we followed it up with time for individual consultations to enable forensic analysis of performance.

This all starts with asking the right questions.

Students were all given a sheet to accompany the experiences of the last day of term, with questions to consider pre, during and post results distribution. These can be shown below:

Asking the right questions today

 

Before you open your results:

What am I expecting my results to be?

Will they be better or worse than the December Mocks?

Why is it? Did you work harder? Are you feeling the pressure more now?

 

When you open your results:

Did my results meet the expectations I had?

Are there any areas that I’m particularly happy with, or unhappy with?

Are there members of staff whom I particularly need to see as a priority for explanation?

 

With teachers:

What are my key priority areas for improvement? Particular topics in particular papers?

How best do I move forward to start my improvement?

What approaches can I take to make the difference?

How am I going to structure my time over the Easter Holidays, day by day?

 

Students would do well to keep these prompts in mind as they seek further improvements, challenging themselves to ensure continuous self improvement. It could make every difference to their final grades. 

 

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