Mr Jeff Symms
Each week I try to find some time to undertake some professional reading. I read studies, reports, interviews and articles on education and child development, in fact on any topic of interest to schools. The work being done here in Australia, and of course, overseas is fascinating and every week something very worthwhile thinking about crosses by desk or computer screen.
For a long time I have been very interested in the notion of failure as a means to success. Our Bounceback program looks into this concept and the teachers work with the boys to help them understand that to achieve goals we need to practice, practice, practice and part of practicing new things, indeed, learning new things, is that we will fail a number of times in the attempt. Failing is just one of the necessary steps in the process of learning. If we are not prepared to fail – we will not learn.
In our current society – failure is often a ‘dirty’ word. Life is all about success and winning. Being better than the next guy, showing strength and confidence and not admitting to our failings is seen as the way to self-esteem and the admiration of others. In fact, the opposite is true.
Around the world, employers are much more focused on the skills of collaboration and co-operation than they are on domination. As people we are more drawn to those who open up to us in honesty and candor; admitting their worries, insecurities and failings, than we are drawn to those who big-note themselves all of the time. The ‘Alpha male’ model has been shown many times to lead to hubris and overconfidence which more often than not leads to downfall. Sure, we seek competency in our workmates, employees and leaders. We want them to be right more often than they are wrong, but the false bravado that comes with never admitting a mistake is not something that is terribly attractive, or useful.
Failure takes bravery. Being willing to ‘have a go’ and take a risk is really important to the process of learning and we should all be telling our boys that it is ok to make mistakes and fail along the way when learning something new.
However, being free to fail requires a supportive environment. No-one will take a risk if they know that the outcome of failing will be derision and unacceptance. When we know that our failing is OK to those people whose opinions matter the most, we will be ok with it. When we know that those we care about will judge us, perhaps call us names or be disappointed in our failings, we will either never take a risk (and stop growing and learning), or frantically cover up our mistakes, blame others for them and generally miss out on unique opportunities to develop.
Encouraging others is the key. Being supportive. Accepting attempts and using our words to build others up to the point where they will try again. When our children are learning to walk, they fail many, many times. But we don’t show disappointment. We don’t tell them they are stupid. We don’t give up supporting their next attempt. And eventually they walk! Think about the role you played in this process, the next time your son is trying to master a new mathematical concept, or write a poem, or learning butterfly kick. How can you replicate the great parenting you undertook while he was learning to walk?
Some tips below from Micheal Grose, parenting expert, on how to help your children understand that failing is not just OK, but also important:-
1. Model failure: Next time you break a plate when emptying the dishwasher, avoid negative language (“What a klutz!”) or catatrophising (“This is the worst thing ever!). It’s a plate. Stuff happens.
2. Tell stories of failure: We tend to be nostalgic of the past and tell kids of the good stuff when we talk about our childhoods. But kids love to hear the warts’n’all stories of the difficulties you faced and stuff-ups you made as a kid. It makes you more human and also gives them permission to do the same.
3. Encourage them: Develop a vocabulary around effort, improvement, contribution and enjoyment. Be your child’s cheerleader but don’t avoid giving feedback when necessary.
4. Tell and show kids how to improve: Feedback is always best when it has a teaching focus. So next time you pick up a child on their poor schoolwork or untidy bedroom, make sure you remind them how to do it right.
5. Provide the time to fail and get it right: Modern teachers and parents are time poor. Crowded curricula and busy lifestyles make us less tolerant of failure. But as anyone who has taught a young child to do up his or her shoelaces will know, some things can’t be rushed. Time and patience can be your best assets when helping kids to handle learning challenges.
Just a few reminders to parents about the new Preparatory School carpark. Things are generally working well, but there a few situations which cause those parents who follow the rules some degree of inconvenience and also compromise the safety of the boys. I genuinely thank our school families for the patience and care that most are demonstrating and ask that everyone adheres to the established processes so that things continue to run smoothly.
The boys in Years 2-6 are dismissed from class at 3.30pm. By 3.45/3.50pm each day the carpark is almost free of traffic. If you can delay arriving until around 3.45pm – please do so. Your pickup routine will be a breeze.
Please also be aware of the speed of your car when on the school grounds. I have had a number of complaints from parents who have witnessed others driving way too quickly to be safe.
The placing of boys into classes each year is a very big job and the teachers and the school’s executive spend a great deal of time on building class lists. At this time of year I start to get some enquiry as to the possibility of parents requesting particular teachers for their son.
It is important for parents to appreciate that it is not possible to accept specific class placement requests. All of our teachers are dedicated and hard working and highly skilled and will provide an excellent education for your son.
I sometimes get the comment that:- “I know that lots of parents have requested a class for their son, so I thought I should too..”. In fact, each year I receive very, very few requests regarding class placements and these are normally due to a very significant reason that it is valuable to be aware of.
Reasons such as:-
and so on, are generally not valid reasons for class placements. For example;- Perhaps your son doesn’t work well in class with his best friend and so is better keeping the friendship for the playground. Perhaps, as your boys are different people, the same teacher may not be the best choice for both. As a school, we look at many different factors before making placement decisions and given our experience and knowledge of the boys – in the school setting, we will have access to the ‘big picture’.
I ask that parents place trust in the school’s staff to make good decisions for their son’s placement and demonstrate confidence in their son’s capability to adjust to a new teacher, new routines and new classmates.
There are times, however, where some information that a parents holds is very relevant to the class placement and if this is the case then parents can, in writing, provide this information to me to assist in the class placement decision. This information MUST be in writing – letter or email is ok, and must be received by me no later than Friday, November 10. Conversations with teachers do not count and cannot be considered.
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