Managing a successful term break in Senior School

This week I had the pleasure of addressing the Senior School assembly as they headed into the mid-year break. My message had two themes, and I am sure the students have heard me represent these themes to them before! Firstly, I offered the perspective that the pain of discipline is never as great as the pain of regret; and secondly, that in Senior School, a successful term break is a matter of balance.

The first perspective is found in the truth that achieving one’s best possible secondary school credential is costly: one must either pay in discipline throughout the journey, or with regret at the end of the journey. As a teacher, it is a great joy to witness the delight and satisfaction on result day when students know they have done their best and are proud of their achievement. All teachers wish this joy for all the students they teach … but they also know this kind of joy is found in sustained discipline over time.

Our Senior School cohorts are at quite different points in this journey. Year 10 have committed to a credential pathway and must now work diligently to prepare themselves for a best possible start.  I gave the example of a HSC student who has elected to step into the challenge of Mathematics Extension – but knows there are aspects of his learning this term that he has not quite mastered. This term break is the time to consolidate that learning – not next term. Our Year 11 students have made the transition to the demands of Stage 6 and each will have not only learning to consolidate, but final assessments for which they must begin preparation. Setting aside substantial  time during the term break, to work both on consolidation and assessment preparation, is an expectation. And of course, Year 12 are managing a rigorous and self-directed schedule of learning consolidation, final assessment, and study for trial examinations. They have benefitted from the Focus Day programme throughout this academic year; their feedback about the skills of reflection and task management they have developed is most encouraging.

During my address, I offered students five lessons from neuroscience to promote effective and efficient personal study time: encode your learning thoroughly; create your own study notes; use visual techniques constantly; include daily exercise and ensure excellent sleep culture. Your son can tell you more about these strategies …

The second, but equally important perspective I wished to share was about balance. In the Senior School, term break means balancing time for learning consolidation with time for rest and rejuvenation. Each student must assess the balance he needs to create. For some, the investment in study needs to take the greatest weight. Others, who have invested heavily in their learning this term, or are recovering from injury, or whose journey this term has involved hardship, must acknowledge that it is rest and rejuvenation to which they must more fully commit, if next term is going to be as good as it can be for them. I’d like to encourage parents to see themselves as very well placed to support students as they make this determination … what should the balance of your son’s term break look like?

Finally, each student was challenged to pick a number! If we think about sixteen school days over the term break, with about seven hours of usual school time in each day, then students have roughly 100 hours of self-directed study time available to them, if they just worked to the school timetable! Now, I’m not suggesting every student needs to study for 100 hours … but you can do a lot with a big chunk of time like this! I suggested that there are probably very few students who should be picking a number less than 20 …. but equally, no student should be thinking he needs to do more than 100 hours of learning. Balance is the key.

I wish every student and family a marvellous, balanced, term break.

Deborah Williams | Academic Dean


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