Welcome back to another new school year! Our students have made an excellent start and they are ready to learn and raring to go. This year we are taking our next steps in developing the learning culture at the Academy, focusing on students taking responsibility for their own learning, progress, attitude and behaviour. As part of this, there are three key strategies families can use to support students’ learning at home.
- Praise the process, not the product
Research shows that praising children for their intelligence – “you’re so clever!”, “wow, you’re so great at Maths!” – can actually harm their motivation by making them believe that they should find the work easy. Instead, when your children get great results or do well, try something like: “that’s great – can you tell me how you did it?” This is more helpful as it will provoke a conversation around strategies, techniques and approaches, showing that your interest is not so much in the product as the process. Instead of saying “you’re so good at English/Art/Science” and so on, try “you’ve really pushed yourself on this project – it’s great to see you working so hard at it.” Instead of “you’re so clever/brilliant/wonderful,” try “I’m so proud of the way you’ve put your time and energy into this,” or “we’re so happy to see that you persevered with this – it was worth all that effort, wasn’t it?”
- Embrace struggle
We have an instinct to rush to praise when children “get” something quickly or produce perfect work first time. However, if students find something quick and easy to grasp, the likelihood is that they either knew it (or something very like it) already, or that the level of challenge was too low. Try asking your children after they get home: “what did you find difficult today?” Praise children when they struggle, because that shows that they’re trying, pushing themselves to do something difficult. That’s the attitude we encourage. Seek out challenging tasks for your children to do, and challenging texts for them to read, to reinforce the message that we give in school: if you’re finding it easy, you’re not learning anything. If you’re struggling, you’re learning.
- Use the power of “yet”
“Yet” can help when students fail, or when they are in the midst of the struggle to master a new and challenging concept. “I can’t do it,” or “I’ll never get it,” or “I’ve never been able to do this,” can be turned around with “…yet.” Learning is a process, and students are always on an upward curve. If they can’t do it today, they’ll have to try again tomorrow, perhaps coming at it from a different angle or using a different strategy. As Thomas Edison famously said: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” If you struggled with Maths or languages or spelling at school, by all means share that struggle with your children, but share it with the determination that they will be able to conquer it if they apply themselves and get the help and support they need – giving up is not an option.
I’d like to thank our families for all the support you give to Churchill’s students and to the Academy as a whole. We couldn’t do it without you!