How to succeed at school
I had a conversation with a student in Year 9 earlier this term. They were not having the best of days, and as I happened to have a few minutes to spare I decided to sit and listen to the young person and see if I could help them get back on track. I listened for a bit, empathised with some of their problems, spoke a bit about how they can help themselves and then they got back to class. All in all, it was a useful conversation and it helped be build a relationship with a student with whom, up to that point, I didn’t really know.
During the conversation the student revealed that they didn’t know how to ‘do’ school and asked me what the secret to success is. I gave a reasonable answer (I think) at the time, but later on I formulated what I wish I had said. After 22 years as a teacher (I know, I know, surely I’m not old enough?) I can safely say that the secret comes down to two things. Simple in some ways, but complex for those who find either of these things difficult.
Secret number 1 – Turn up. Everything else being the same, the student who turns up more often will succeed more in school, however you want to measure success. If you/your child’s/your relatives’ attendance is under 98% then the number one priority is to help them to turn up more often. 90% attendance is not good, 95% is just about ok, but anything under 98% needs work if you don’t want attendance to hold a student back.
Secret number 2 – Read. Reading, and especially reading fiction, makes kids more successful in school. It’s great for vocabulary, for contextual knowledge, for cultural capital, for writing skills and for mental wellbeing. Again, all other things being equal, the student who reads more will succeed more.
That’s it really. That’s what I wanted to tell that Year 9 student, and every student for that matter. Turn up and Read. Turn up and Read. Turn up and Read…
Have a great long weekend,