Studentship – the art of being a great student
There is a wonderful parable that I presented at the recent Years 6-8 Parent Information evening which I think is worth sharing more broadly. There was a family who packed all their belongings into a cart in order to move from one town to the next one. They completed the journey across a number of days. When they finally arrived at the outskirts of the new town they encountered an old woman sitting on a rock and they went up to her and asked if she was from the town. She said that she was. They asked, “What are the people in this town like?” She responded, “Tell me, what were the people in your last town like?”
The father responded: “They were all horrible. They were judgmental, competitive and exclusive. They gossiped maliciously and that’s why we are seeking a new place to live.” The old woman said. “You will find people like that in this town too.” The family trudged off ahead.
Later on that day, another family came along with their wagon to the outskirts of town. They approached the same elderly woman who was still perched on the rock and asked her, “What are the people in this town like?” She responded the same way. “Tell me, what were the people in your previous town like?” The response, “Oh, they were wonderful! So caring and warm hearted. They would do anything to look after one-another. We are devastated to leave but we could not find work there. We hope to stay in touch with our many friends from there.” The old woman said. “You will find people like that in this town too. I am sure you will be very happy.” The family members thanked the woman, beamed with delight and moved forward towards the town.
This story tells us an important message. Our attitude is crucial in determining our experience. If we bring positivity and open ourselves up to others and new experiences with optimism, we are far more likely to be rewarded with them.
Educational research abounds with examples of theorists who have explained how important a positive attitude is to achieving results.
Carol Dweck focuses on the concept of growth mindset – the bravery to try new things and to destigmatise failure. Angela Duckworth explains the concept of grit – that sticking-with-it-ness that comes when we are at maximal learning range when we have to stretch to grasp a new concept or skill and persevere through obstacles. Ron Ritchhart speaks of Intellectual Character which incorporates the key attitudinal dispositions that allow learning to thrive. Andrew Martin speaks of Personal Best, the notion that a focus on personal integrity and bringing our best selves leads to the best results.
John Hattie’s meta-analysis on effects on student outcomes showed that the two most significant effects came from the teachers and the students – what he called “the power of passion, and teachers’ collective expertise” and the levels of student expectation. We have worked hard to ensure that our staff are on a constant journey to enhance their collective expertise. Our focus is also on developing the art of studentship.
How can students bring their best attitudes and try to exceed their own expectations? What can they do to consistently bring their best selves? How will they develop effective communication with their teachers? How can they develop good routines that promote organisation, calm and clear-thinking?
This is all studentship. It is the art of being a great student. This involves setting challenging goals and striving to achieve them and acting with purpose and integrity in one’s application.
I am certain that a focus on these approaches will set our students up for a tremendous 2021 filled with possibility and growth.