FOR many of us January starts with good intentions, resolutions and lots of ‘I am going to do’s..’ All good intentions of course, however, if I were to make a survey today I might find that much of what we said we were going to do hasn’t yet started, fallen a little by the wayside already or has even been put off until February!! Does that ring any alarm bells?
January is a particulary challenging time for students; coming after the Christmas holiday period, many have enjoyed relaxing for at least three weeks, and have done little or nothing during the Christmas break. Of course this particular year has the added challenge of further restrictions and more uncertainty of what will happen to exams again in the summer.
Added to this being thrown straight back into their studies with mock examinations from day one. Together with a reality check of what the end of term report really meant!
Many students may well feel already overwhelmed.
In general students suffer from two main issues; procrastination and motivation to get the job done. They tend to want to be just ‘done to’ and told the answer rather than taking the responsibility of learning for themselves. This is quite apparent throughout the academic year but is even more so when the going gets tougher at this time of year.
We find that in general students are polite, attentive, make some notes and tell us that they understand the principles of the learning. We always review study skills, show the students how to study and give strict time bound guidelines to study regime.
However, very often when a student sees a question relating to a recent topic a few weeks after the topic has been covered here or at school, they have no recollection of the process or application to solve it. The classic response when we tell them yet again the answer is generally ‘Oh yes, I remember now’. My response of course is that this is no good I am not going to be with them in the examination, sitting on their shoulder whispering the answer. How I wish that I could be this genie as I would definitely make a fortune!!
In general success is not about being talented but about practise and hard work. Many students from secondary through to A level are not prepared to make the sacrifice of spending time practising or taking the responsibility for their own learning. As adults we should look to give them a hand to self-discover the importance of independent learning.
Firstly we must recognise that often as parents or tutors we sometimes want success more than the student themselves but we cannot do it for them.
At MTA we really want all students to do well and we energetically try to help them as much as possible, showing them every way to answer the question, but we know, in many cases, that students put their books away when they leave here and do not open them until we see them again the following week. We need to encourage more independent effort in order to see a significant rise in skills.
It is a dilemma faced by tutors, schools and parents from all walks of life.
Understanding whether the underperformance is an attitude, knowledge or skill issue is the vital first stage. Where there is a knowledge or skill issue this is fairly easily solved. Additional tutoring in the right environment with the right guidance and practise will turn this skill around. At Mallorca Tutoring Academy we see this regularly; with students who have developed sufficiently over a period of time graduating from us, no longer needing our expertise with their marks remaining strong.
Where the issue is an attitude problem this is trickier and involves other tactics. Raising self-motivation of the student is the only way forward but can be quite challenging.
My top five steps to success would be as follows:
1. Have you asked your child what motivates them? This may not be something grand but as simple as not letting themselves down.
2. Help them set short term goals. Make them very specific and achievable. For instance ‘To increase the percent achievement by 10% for the next examination due in June 2015.
3. Set specific actions in order to achieve the goal. Again making them very specific and achievable. For instance ‘To practise maths questions for 30 minutes each day for one week.
4. Monitor progress. The most important part is to make sure that the actions agreed are done without fail. This can be the most controversial part as it often receives resistance.
5. Promote success, however small. Positive energy stimulates more motivation.
As parents you generally know your own children very well and will be able to pinpoint attitude knowledge or skills quite easily. However if you are having trouble really getting to the bottom of an underperformance issue don’t be afraid to seek help from school or external tutors.
Remember there are great benefits from taking responsibility of learning for your child including:
- Improved academic performance.
- Increased motivation and confidence
- Greater student awareness of their limitations and their ability to manage them
- Giving the tutor the ability to provide differentiated tasks for students to meet their own personal learning needs.
We owe it to these students to become mentors as well as teachers and parents.
Tell me and I forget
Teach me and I remember
Involve me and I learn.