Exams are over! Holidays are here! These jovial phrases were heard echoing through the halls countless times in the last week, but soon the big question took focus: “What am I going to do with all of my free time?”
At first the answer seems simple: I have games to play, movies/series to watch and friends to chill with. Of course there is plenty time to do the things we really enjoy, but there are also many productive things to do during the school holidays.
In my many years of teaching I have found that visits from past pupils have always been one of my most valuable learning experiences. So I have decided to take some of their excellent advice on what to do during the holidays and pass it on to you. First take some time to reflect on the term gone by; think about the highs and the lows and then ask yourself what you could have done differently. This will allow you to confidently set goals for the new term and give you an idea of how you want to achieve them.
It is that time of the year, when our pupils get to show what they have learned over the past six months. Many dislike the exam period; some can approach the exams with confidence, as revision is second nature to them. Others cringe just thinking about it, not because they are not capable, but because anxiety and stress cripple them.
There are many articles and suggestions online on how to eliminate or manage anxiety and stress levels during exams. Here are a few tips on how to deal with emotions during exams.
It has been a busy few weeks wrapping up the winter sport season. I have spent many hours on the side of a variety of fields and courts at a variety of schools this past fortnight. Having witnessed, for the most part, what can only be described as exceptional sportsmanship from the players on the field and the supporters watching, I was saddened when I witnessed an incident of some rather unsavoury behaviour from some parents on the side of the field.
I felt it apt, after this disappointing incident, to use my article this week to remind parents, alumni, and general spectators about positive sportsmanship. I am a parent myself. I am also an educator. And since my sporting days are long past I am often, these days, a spectator. My child is at our prep school. She swims and plays netball and I am often the parent on the side of the field. I recognise, however, that me thinking she is the best swimmer on the team doesn’t necessarily make me an expert on swimming – stroke technique, team picks, starts, finishes, relay
change overs and tumble turns. On the contrary, as a spectator, I am sure that I see things very differently to the actual swimmers in the pool.
Recently, while watching a high school hockey game. I was sitting with colleagues in the stands in amongst both home and opposing team supporters. It was a very heated game both on the field and off the field. I understand that parents want to cheer for their children. I can even try to understand their disappointment and frustration when the umpire’s calls go against their team. What I don’t understand is how some parents and spectators feel it is their place to criticise the umpires and the players on the opposing team. Not under their breath, mind you – loudly and with such hostility that it was impossible to ignore. It was unpleasant and really in poor form. We teach our children that they should never engage in a negative manner with others. We must, it follows, model this behaviour for our kids.
Shouting encouragement is always welcome and always positive. Chirping the players or officials is not. As parents and educators we have a responsibility to conduct ourselves as mature, supportive spectators who appreciate the efforts of everyone on the field – that includes the opposition. As the adults in the equation we have a responsibility to teach our children to respect the rules and those tasked with enforcing them - that means accepting the decisions of the officials.
Let us also never forget the context within which we are operating. This is school sport – not the Olympics! They aren’t professional players - they do not depend on this game for their living! Your children play sport for the love of the sport. They play to be part of a team, to enjoy healthy, physical competition. They should not be encouraged to “take him out” from a parent in the stands. We should be encouraging and congratulating all players on the field for great play or goals or tactics. Children love having parents there to support them – they are grateful for your interest and appreciate your encouragement. But their joy quickly turns to acute embarrassment when your support morphs into negative engagement with the coaches, referees, umpires or the opposition teams. And when it seems as if all the calls are against your team, this is the time, more than any other, that you need to be a positive role model for your child. Rather than make a spectacle of yourself on the sidelines, show respect for all around you – officials, coaches and opposition players but most importantly your own child. Remember always, even when they are the main attraction, our children are watching us.
A number of years ago, Stanford University’s Professor Walter Mischel erformed an experiment (known as the Marshmallow experiment) on children 4-6 years old. His instructions directed the children to eat one marshmallow now, but if they could wait for 15 minutes without eating any, then he would give each of them twice as many marshmallows to eat. He found that some children did eat the marshmallows almost immediately, while a few others decided to wait for a more significant reward.
The investigation didn’t finish there - researchers continued to study the development of the children into adolescents. They found that those children who were able to delay gratification were psychologically better adjusted, more dependable, more selfmotivated, and in high school scored significantly better with regards to academic performance. With the latest study conducted on these exact same participants in 2011, the research has shown that these characteristics have remained with the individuals for life. We live in a world where instant gratification is expected and if it is not forthcoming the ability to simply wait has become non-existent.
"Gees Week" is upon us and there is much war-crying and drum beating going on before school and during break each day. While I have to admit I find the noise a little unsettling, I am delighted to see such wonderful school spirit amongst the pupils. They are clearly proud of their school and are, for the most part, not afraid to show it. It got me thinking about pride as a concept and how it relates to confidence, motivation, achievement and general happiness.
The first thought to cross my mind - being somewhat of a pessimist, and having been schooled at a good Catholic institution in the early 80s - was the age-old saying ‘Pride comes before a fall!’ This unfortunately gives pride a very negative connotation, something which I find difficult to reconcile with the joyous sense of pride I have been witnessing around the school this week. I believe strongly that pride can be a positive emotion, used to reinforce continued effort.
It has become increasingly noticeable that a number of our pupils feel that they can’t speak to their parents, or that their parents don’t understand them, their parents don’t take them seriously, and so on. We as teachers and parents need to be accessible to our children, our teenagers, the pupils we teach.
As teachers we often give pupils advice on how to speak to their parents, how to approach a thorny subject or emotive issue. We re-assure our pupils that parents will always want to do what is best for them. I have found some ideas and advice on how to approach, talk to and communicate with your teenager.
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