20 September 2021

The Monday Briefing: Beat It

The Monday Briefing: Beat It

Yesterday, when I was around halfway through completing a rather hilly 10k in the Chilterns, I started asking myself whether the steep incline I was tackling at that point would ever end. I ambled up at a pace aimed solely at conserving energy, passing other competitors who had slowed to a walk, and told myself: when I get through this, it’s all downhill from here. 

Having absolutely no course knowledge at all, I wasn’t to be aware of this of course, and I was actually lying to myself. At around 8k, following a glorious stretch of gradual decline where I was happily coasting along, another lung-busting ascent materialised, and the struggle commenced again. I got to the end of the race, quite pleased with my efforts in coming in 53 out of around 200 athletes - and congratulated myself for continuing my preparation for my biggest running challenge so far: the Ealing Half Marathon this coming Sunday.

The experience at the weekend made me think about targets, meeting them and beating them, and how running the race was very like what our students go through. At the start of the race, I had a finishing time in mind - though my 10k practices are generally done on the flat and they stop at 10k. Anything around 46-47 minutes would constitute success. My aforementioned lack of awareness for the route made such a target rather fanciful. Not only was the course actually around 10.5k, but the elevation of 163 metres was a challenge I hadn’t encountered before. My time of 50.31 would normally be a disappointment, but looking closer, I had no reason to feel unhappy. 4 minutes and 50 seconds per kilometre, and certainly in such a gruelling test was a good time - even though it initially appeared a backward step for me.

Our students have already started to consider what will constitute success for them when they reach the end of the year. Of course, the best students have had their eye on entry requirements set for university courses for some time - and are plotting a course for those accordingly. It is, for all students, however, to identify their path, to plot the route to success and make it happen, whatever they aspire to. The best students, incidentally, also acquire their ‘local knowledge’ by practising the assessments they will be measured against.

Everyone, from Year 9 to Year 13, sat CAT4 tests on student induction day, and that data has been shared with them. Their opening pieces of work will help to further inform performance indicators so that aspirational target grades are in place. We are approaching the end of September, and that brings with it the first ‘Months Mark’ grade, where they will receive the first verdict against their targets - with feedback on attainment and effort. For some, it will be welcome news; For others, necessary recommendations on how to improve. Regardless, it is vital that the process of measurement and improvement commences quickly and meaningfully. Only by getting in the saddle can one improve their horse riding.

Adaptability and flexibility are two extremely important characteristics which we encourage in our students. Just as I had to adapt in my 10k at the weekend, to change my approach to fit the circumstances, so must an Ealing Independent College student. They may well find aspects or units within a course particularly difficult; circumstances which arise could force them to dig deeper. This is all part of building resilience: of setting challenges; of approaching them calmly and methodically; of beating them; of rewarding oneself accordingly; of moving on to the next.

I must admit to feeling a touch apprehensive about my first official half marathon this week, and I’m sure I share a great deal in common with our students as they embark on the steep learning curve which the opening weeks of a course entails. Our job is to advise them, encourage them and hold them to account so that they can, in the end, achieve. 

I will give everything to succeed in reaching my goal this week. 

I know there will be difficult moments. I know that it will be draining, and that I know there may be times where giving in will seem like the easy option. 

But I won’t. 

As Principal of the College, that is not a message I feel like endorsing to the students in any way

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