Why Giving Your Best Matters

The main topic of conversation in the academic space this week has been examinations. During this time, the school takes on a different feel. Usually vibrant senior classrooms give way to quiet study spaces, where Year 11 and 12 students delve into their books, seeking to grasp those last crucial pieces of knowledge before their exams. It's a time of focussed preparation, but also of emerging leadership, and it is with pride that I have seen Year 10 students stepping into temporarily vacated leadership roles such as assisting with events, Peer Support and even helping younger students with homework. img_2100.jpg

It is unsurprising that the examination period is an inherently stressful one for some students. By their very nature, examinations are about being judged. A high pressure, timed opportunity to impress upon others the extent of your understanding and skill in a particular subject. However, this pressure and judgement is not limited to the students who are completing examinations. Concurrent with the examinations, we have over 50 students commencing a real world parallel to the exams, via an extended work experience placement. In these placements the students will also be judged under time pressure, with only a limited number of hours to make a positive impression on prospective employers and demonstrate their skills and adaptability in professional settings. In this regard, the exam and work experience weeks can be seen as not just a test of academic prowess, but a life lesson in resilience and performance under pressure.

In fact, the adult world we are preparing CBC Gentlemen to interact with is one in which judgement happens every day. Our first impressions make a difference. How we speak, how we listen, how we interact with others and even our personal appearance can, fairly or unfairly, influence the way we are portrayed by others. This speaks to the importance of the second characteristic of a CBC Gentleman, Strive to be your best and understand the inherent value of doing so. If we are each doing our best, then we can be sure that any academic result we achieve is indicative of all we could give. It is only when we leave something in reserve that we should ever feel any disappointment in our own efforts.

When I work with the boys on this pillar, I like to dig a little deeper:
Firstly, giving your best means evaluating whether what you are doing is effective. If your study plan isn't working, how can we change it? If I am trying to get to class on time but I am still late, how can I change my routines? This important life skill begins in Year 7, with the students currently learning (as part of the Heroic Habits program in Wellbeing class), how their brain retains information and which study habits will allow them to have a better chance of remembering what they need, when they need it!

Secondly, giving your best means always striving for growth. Are we truly giving our best if our best never improves over time? I saw a great example of this concept this week when observing an English class. In this lesson, the teacher returned a creative writing story with no grades, just feedback. The students could then interact with the feedback, ask questions if they did not agree or required clarity and then had to improve a section of their story to show their growth as a writer. Only then did they receive their grade. For me this was an outstanding example of this growth mindset in action. Rather than simply focusing on a grade and filing the assessment away, each student was able to demonstrate an improvement in their writing, regardless of the level from which they started.

I've read that two of the strongest indicators of human happiness and wellbeing occur when you feel a deep sense of belonging to a community, and when you feel you are working towards something you find difficult, but achievable. With this in mind, some questions for dinner table discussion in the coming weeks could be:
1.    What work are you most proud of this Term and why?
2.    What action have you taken in response to the feedback on _______ assessment to show you are improving?

If the student knows how they are improving, and is proud of their efforts, then marks and grades become mere measures of "what was I able to show on the day, and where should I focus next". To me, this should be the focus of any assessment.

Mr Jean Paul Papineau
Deputy Principal - Teaching & Learning