This past week, the College conducted Parent Teacher Interviews (PTIs) in both the Junior and Senior School. These PTIs offer a unique and essential opportunity to strengthen the relationships between the trinity of those who are chiefly concerned with a child’s academic and personal development: the student, parent and teacher.

But, for students, these PTIs sometimes come with fear and trepidation. Questions and doubts regarding their personal performance and grades arise and culminate in apprehension that they could, or should, be doing better.

Many assume that possessing a high IQ or cognitive ability is a sure recipe for success. With this context in mind, school reports and PTIs are highly scrutinised regarding the academic grades a student is earning. Whilst there is certainly a place and a call to measure a student’s grasp and knowledge surrounding subject content, it is also incredibly important to keenly reflect on other vital areas of their education. More specifically, one must gauge the student’s individual attitude to learning.

Somerset College regularly outlines that possibly the most important reflection a teacher can make is one which discusses ‘effort’. Making an effort implies that students have utilised qualities such as risk taking, persistence, problem solving and focusing on a task to completion. Making an effort is therefore a combination of all the values and qualities that we encourage our students to develop and display in their day-to-day learning… and life for that matter.

Winston Churchill reflected that, “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential”.  

So, as parents and staff, how can we assist? Like with any human behaviour, effort can be increased in our children by providing reinforcement and by rewarding every attempt at effort, regardless of outcome. This does not mean that we should lavish compliments for doing something trivial, but rather focussing on and rewarding genuine effort and perseverance. If this is consistently recognised, then there should be no need for anxiety when it is time for formal academic reports to be released.

If a student makes a genuine effort to do their best, whether it be in a sporting event, homework task, examination or speech, then – irrespective of the ultimate grade – they will have succeeded… and we celebrate them for that.

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