14 November 2022

The Monday Briefing: It's Late

The Monday Briefing: Its Late

It’s perfectly normal behaviour for children to test the boundaries and push the limits. 

The most important response for a parent, or teacher, who has to experience this, is not to take such behaviour personally - though this can be quite a difficult skill to master.

It’s important to keep one sentiment in mind: ‘They are not trying to drive me crazy, or disrespect me - they are just finding out how life works.’

That’s why the response to such behaviour is so vitally important.

As the father of a three year old daughter who is going through this process, I’m well aware of the trials and tribulations which follow disagreements about rules and regulations in the household. Just yesterday, Molly decided that colouring in a large sheet of paper was far more important than having dinner with her mother and father. A family meal is sacrosanct for us. It is our chance to sit and talk, to share time with one another and converse about the day gone and those to come.

Rather than give in, Molly was given two alternatives: either she chose to have the meal with us; or it was time to get to bed. A deluge of whinging and whining later, my child was marched up to her room, and read a couple of quick stories before lights were turned out for sleeping time. She quibbled and argued with the decision, but the point was made strongly and she understood what would happen if she interfered with the precious nature of the mealtime again.

Molly was seeing what she could get away with. By and large, she is a sweet natured and kind child: she shares her possessions well with others; when her peers are mean to her she gives a firm ‘no thankyou’ and doesn’t retaliate; she is polite, and - though she often has to be reminded to see ‘please’ and thankyou’ - one knows that she is grateful.

She is no angel though. 

She can be rather stubborn and fixed on what she wants at certain times - and - like all other children, she will try to assert her own independence. She proclaims that she knows best when to go to the toilet - often with dreadful consequences - or what to wear - often resulting in much hilarity. It’s just a part of growing up.

What Molly is looking for, just like any other child - and I would include the students in the College in this bracket - is, conclusively, exactly where the boundaries lie.

They want to see consistency.

They want to see that they are being paid attention to.

They want to see a positive reaction.

But above all, they want to find the point where their responsibility ends and ours, as the rule makers, begins.

That’s why the College introduced the extra school/catch up sessions last week. 

Where students can’t take responsibility to live up to expectations by completing all of the work which has been set in their interests, then a response has to come. Just like Molly learned with the family meal, some have to learn the hard way that the completion of set work is sacrosanct at the College.

Some of our students will of course react like Molly - outwardly expressing dissatisfaction with the system. The count of those started and ended last week with one. In a similar vein, we had several messages from parents giving their full backing for the move.

This is because the vast majority of our students see the bigger picture. All of the work which is set for students is planned to correlate closely with the improvements necessary to prepare them for success. Missing pieces of work can become sizable blind spots for a student, leading to a lack of preparedness in assessments and exams. Less time spent studying generally translates to less output, and poorer performance over the long term.

Even those who would be placed in catch up sessions on every available day would benefit from having three hours more work done. If they were to keep this up from now until May, then they would have gained 50 hours of study, which will be of immense benefit to their overall performance.

Just the deterrent has made a difference. One year 13 student this week, who simply needed a push to get him going, has delivered three overdue essays in three days, and has vowed never again to be late with his work - of course, we’ll see how long this lasts, but at least he is thinking progressively. Attendance at sessions has, thus far, been incredibly high where required, and those that may have transgressed have learned that this will not be tolerated.

With mock exams coming closer and the need for momentum to build in terms of preparation for these, there was little doubt that such a move was needed. I’d love to work in a perfect school where everyone delivered on the output they were expected to - though I’m sure a school where everyone did exactly as they were told would become rather mundane and quite artificial.

After all, every student, from time to time, pushes the boundaries - it reminds them where they are.

What is important is that the notion of high standards is kept foremost in the minds of all. We all want to be the very best that we can be, and that means that lateness, neither of a student, nor a piece of their work, without valid explanation, will never be accepted without challenge. 

We know from experience what it leads to, and that is underperformance. 

If we allow this, then we do not do our job as educators. 

Students need to learn not just from the work they do academically, but the feeling of satisfaction and pride gained from the process of doing it well - delivering it on time and to the highest standards.

Nothing can set them up for life more appropriately. 

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