Can you read? Can you write? Can you count?
If you say yes to these then you are a success. You have succeeded at school. You’ve made suitable progress through your years at school. Heck… You’re verging on being a genius. You’re probably headed to university, or some high end CEO job, and once you’ve done that, and are trying to work out what to do with your money after all the property you now own, you might just run for prime minister.
If the importance that is placed on National Standards in this country is anything to go by, then this will be reality. Yet we keep on getting pressured into widening the curriculum day after day, by all the different curriculum areas; science, the arts, p.e. and health. Fitting all of this in within the school year is challenge enough, yet alone finding time in the school day. Many teachers have had to learn and adapt, and thus begin integrating reading, writing, and maths in amongst the other subjects.
But isn’t success more than this?
I’ve had a myriad of students through my classroom doors, some who are very successful academically. But I will always remember one student, Polly. Polly of course is a made up name designed to remind me who it is, but disguise her identity for privacy reasons. Polly was a neat student. She was on time most days, was well presented, had lunch, came from a home with supportive parents who turned up to school events when they could. Polly had great friends, and was always very kind, considerate, and respectful towards others. She didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone. Polly got on and did her work. She was enthusiastic about school and about learning. She wasn’t the best at maths, reading, or writing, but always gave 100% effort and put her heart and soul into her work. But 2010 rolled around, and with it the implementations of National Standards, I found myself having to try and explain to Polly and her concerned parents why she was Well Below in all three areas. It simply wasn’t fair. Polly became a target student, and her progress was routinely monitored. By the time she left school, she was still Below the National Standards in all three subjects, but was a long way from being an ‘unsuccessful’ student. In fact, she was a very long way from being a ‘below’ student as well.
You see, Polly had a lot going for her. She had perseverance. She had respect. She had kindness and reliability. Polly had great running ability, and determination, confidence, and commitment to boot. She had a dramatic flair, although only used this when she was required, on stage, in assemblies, and class plays. She got along with everyone, even those who crossed her. You see, when I said goodbye to Polly from my class, I knew it wouldn’t be the last I saw her. I knew that out in society, in the real world, whatever Polly chose to do with her life, she would be a success. She had the qualities that will make success inevitable. While she was not the brightest student academically, she will do well for herself regardless. Whether she becomes a stay at home mum, or a fast-food chef, air hostess, veterinary assistant, early childhood educator, bus driver, receptionist, or the second wealthiest CEO in the country, it won’t matter, because what ever she chooses, she will be successful at it – I am sure of it.
In my experience, I’ve been through a few different ‘Graduate Profile’ activities, where we as teachers get around and discuss what skills and qualities we would like our students to leave our school with. Each and every time we end up with a list that includes many, if not all of the following skills and qualities:
Creativity, Resilience,Able to work with a variety of different people, Motivated, Persistence, Expresses themselves, Curiosity, Humour, Endurance, Reliability, Empathy, Leadership, Compassion, Courage, Resourcefulness, Humility, Communication Skills, Thinks of others, Shows respect, Shows not tells, Trusts others, Social skills, Role model, Mentor, Volunteers, Gives to others, Active participator, Takes suitable risks, Uses initiative, Confident, Trustworthy, Problem Solver,Self Awareness, Self Discipline, Self Motivated, Ambitious, Flexible, Positive attitude.
When you look through this comprehensive list, there is no question that they are suitable desires for schools to have for their students to have leave with, and more often than not, when teachers are asked to come up with such lists, no where is academic ability mentioned. No where on our Graduate Profile as a school does it say that a ‘model A’ student that leaves our school will be At or Above the National Standard.
It’s definitely worth thinking about.
What does success mean to you in regards to education and learning? Feel free to comment your ideas below.