27 September 2021

The Monday Briefing: The Man in the Mirror

The Monday Briefing: The Man in the Mirror

When I was in primary school, we used to carry out a weekly spelling test. I’m not sure why I remember a particular test so well, but one week I misspelt ‘carriage’ and so scored 9/10. 

These tests were self assessed, and so, all children in the class had the temptation to make quick changes to their answers, thereby picking up points they wouldn’t deserve.

A similar incident happened while I was teaching year 10 students about prefixes last week. I had devised a fun game where students used dictionaries to first ascertain the meaning of the prefix, then to select a ‘chosen word’ with which they’d try to gain a point, and three ‘blocker words’ with which they’d try to deny others. If they had a word which no one else could block, they scored. To work properly, the game has to be based on trust. If a student, rather shiftily, alters their blocker words upon hearing the chosen word of one of their peers, it can undermine the whole experience.

‘You’re only cheating yourself,’ was what Mr Kyle, my teacher, used to say. 

And his words still ring true.

One of the abiding guidelines for students while enrolled here is that they are honest - to one another of course, but also to themselves. Where they recognise deficiencies in their approach, they should take the necessary steps to alter it, or ask for help to make the change.

Scrolling through Twitter the other evening, I found a quite brilliant guide which explains the key characteristics of a successful student. I’ve been a keen admirer of the work of @HecticTeacher for some time. Her explanation on the difference between studying and revising has been taken on comprehensively by the College when informing our pupils about how to commence their studies at the start of any course.

I want students to ask difficult questions of themselves, to be their own harshest critic whilst trying to embody the words of Socrates: ‘to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.’

Of course, students have already been given clear instructions regarding how they will be measured in terms of their effort whilst here, and the ‘excellent’ gradings for them can be seen below. We know that having such thorough guidelines is paramount to student behaviour, conduct and performance, and that this needs to be reiterated at regular intervals - hence the Months Marks at EIC.

These serve an incredibly important purpose in keeping students on the right track, and maintaining standards.Where students fall to satisfactory or below, intervention meetings are triggered, whilst performing to the highest standards is celebrated and shared with parents.

The graphic below details nine key facets of the ideal approach and I shall be using them as a guide to reiterate the expectations around the levels of self-reflection we expect to see here. Only by emphasising such behaviours can we help students understand that resilience, commitment and accepting one’s own flaws are critical to success.

Excitingly, we have asked our student leadership team to create a similar set of guidelines for our teachers - and this will form a key part of the staff-student charter as the College encourages student voice to shape how we operate. 

The first draft was reviewed and discussed by teachers on Wednesday afternoon. Not only did it provoke a great deal of interesting debate around the culture of the College, and how distinct it is, but it showed our students were capable of supplying reasoned and sophisticated feedback which echoes the characteristics of who we are: compassionate and supportive; enthusiastic and ambitious; proactive and enquiring.

I will explain this further in the coming weeks, as well as how we intend this to inform our continuing professional development strategy for the improvement of teaching and learning.

As with everything, however, it must start with honesty and being true to oneself.

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