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13 November 2023

The Monday Briefing: Promise to try

The Monday Briefing: Promise to try

If I was pressed into formulating a mantra for our students, ‘promise to try’ would not be too far off what I think I’d come up with.

One of the fundamental building blocks of success at Ealing manifests itself in students exercising full effort: with this level of effort comes respect from staff and peers; with this level of effort comes self respect and self esteem; with this level of effort comes progress and development.

This message is immediately made clear to students when they visit for an initial tour as part of our enrolment process.

Any previous educational experiences are left in the past. 

The slate is wiped clean and students are measured on their efforts - are they as good as their promise to try?

Generally speaking, students who come to us undergo a two week trial period. This is utterly vital for all parties to see if the proposed enrolment will work.

A two week cycle enables students to experience lessons in small classes - something which many of them have never been taught within. It enables them to complete homework, submit it, and receive feedback. It enables them the chance to integrate with peers and find friendships, something which tends to happen at the College, given the small size of it, ‘on fast forward.’

Most of our trial periods result in success.

I like to think that this is because of the encouraging, empowering nature of the environment they walk into: where staff seek to locate the best way to teach students to get the best from them; where students look to guide and support new additions to Ealing; where parents are kept ‘in the loop’ and relationships prosper on trust from day one.

Just this week, I was privileged to be a key part of a heartwarming close to a trial period.

I firstly asked how the student himself had felt the trial had gone - ‘pretty well’ he tentatively answered.

The student in question came to us from a special school, feeling frustrated at the lack of challenge there. ‘I feel, there, like I’m in a cycle I can’t break out of’ he said of his last educational experience.

Obviously anxious to find out exactly how his fortnight at the College had been received, I made it clear that he had, actually, performed better than the rather cagey response he had given earlier in the meeting. The reality was that all staff who had taught him were keen that he would join us permanently.

 

Their responses spoke volumes:

‘Settling in well. He is very polite and always attempts his work. No issues at all on my end.’

‘He has made some very good contributions to Sociology and has been a lovely addition to the class so far.’

‘A great addition to the English class and participates actively - he is very polite and creative.’

‘He finished a test this week, and while he didn’t score highly, it was evident that a) he tried, b) he wanted to get better and c) the fact that he had not covered much of the test did not perturb him.’

 

His parents were also delighted with the last 10 days of school.

‘He’s come home every night, inspired, excited and explaining in detail all of the new things he has learned,’ beamed his parents.

Within that time, he had taken part in his first ever science practical experiment, and had committed himself to attending Warhammer club on a Monday. Whilst not feeling quite ready to take a full part in a PE/Games session, he gladly went for a walk around the facilities and then assisted our Sports Coordinator by helping to officiate.

‘The difference, here, is that he’s been treated like an adult,’ his mother and father continued. 

They felt this approach to be completely novel. For us, building student confidence by offering them the opportunity to make the right choices, treating them as individuals and not just part of a system, tends to pay dividends.

We employ it consistently.

And so, it was unanimously agreed that confirming the enrolment was the right way forward.

At this, the student reacted by welling up in tears.

‘What’s wrong?’ came a chorus of questions from myself, Laura the Vice Principal and Charlie, the Marketing and Admissions Coordinator.

‘I’m going to miss my friends at my old school’ he rather endearingly explained.

After composing himself outside of my office with his father, we were able to speak more with his mother, who at this point was also tearful. We had, she explained, been the fifth school they had looked to as part of their continuing quest to find the right school for their son. She couldn’t believe that they had finally happened upon it, and were, in fact, wrongly convinced that the trial was going to end unsuccessfully.

When he returned, he made a point of thanking me for the opportunity, and apologised if it seemed as though he had not immediately shown gratitude.

‘You don’t need to thank me.’ I responded. ‘You’ve earned it. You deserve it.’

Though he is just embarking on his journey with us, and there will, no doubt, be bumps and jolts along the way, wedding himself to the ‘promise to try’ which he displayed over the two week trial will certainly bring him success. He has things to learn about how he needs to adapt his approach, but by maintaining an appropriate mindset to work, to a commitment to self improvement and a keenness to do his best, he is going to make it with us. 

In so doing, he will bring the sort of contentment that I know his parents have been seeking for a great deal of time.

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