There is a degree of excitement and joyful anticipation that greets the beginning of every school year. This year, in the secondary years, it is particularly positive now that our academic calendar mirrors the calendar year. The clean slate of books yet to be written in and home study spaces brimming with coordinated stationery pieces greets many students with quiet anticipation that this year will be “different”.
This point of difference for many students is the desire to be more organised. It is no secret that students who have their planning under control typically enjoy a higher degree of success in their studies, as they are able to manage their time and resources to ensure their workload is manageable and completed to the best of their ability. Benjamin Franklin first articulated it for us: “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” We value planning highly as part of our Building Purposeful Lives framework and recognise the need to intentionally grow this learning behaviour in our students.
At the end of week five students are now well immersed in their course material. Our secondary students across Years 7 to 11 have all been issued with their new Assessment Schedules for the year. This provides students and families with an excellent opportunity to now plan ahead for the learning tasks programmed across their courses.
With all my four children in high school this year, managing multiple schedules is a particular challenge for us. Our go-to strategy is to use a common whiteboard with the weeks of the term clearly labelled. Then each of the children map the course names in the weeks when their tasks are due. Conversely, I share with them known planned family events so that they can already schedule these chunks of time out of their planning for the weekends around assessment task due dates. Whilst it’s not a fail-proof model to help them plan around (family and friends often pop over spontaneously), it does provide them with a snapshot of our family commitments in the weeks or months ahead, so that they intentionally factor in family life around their assessment schedules. Similarly, it provides a sobering reminder to my husband and me of the many demands that our high school-aged children face as we try to provide some balance in their lives.
Over the past 12 months I have been working closely with our HSC students from both the class of 2019 and 2020. A common lament of students, when reflecting on their lack of time to adequately commit to all of their study demands, is the conflict of schedules within homes. They frequently cite unknown scheduled events in their world that, whilst highly enjoyable experiences, were not factored into their Study schedule early enough for them to adequately plan around. Not only does this compromise the student’s capacity to complete the work to the degree that they are capable of, it becomes detrimental to their mental health and well-being, as the additional stress and the conflicting emotions around familial obligations and their desire to pursue excellence in a compact timeline may create an unhealthy degree of stress and anxiety.
I encourage all families to make time to sit and schedule together frequently so that parents have a deeper understanding of the busy schedule that ebbs and flows throughout the term, and the children of the household know what other commitments they need to factor into their planning for success as we launch wholeheartedly into the academic year of 2020.
Director of Secondary Teaching & Learning