Why it’s important to make learning enjoyable for students

Education is not a sport. 

This may seem like an obvious thing to say, but sadly, this winners-and-losers approach has been taken on by many of our local teachers, parents and schools. 

Increasingly, the single, greatest measure of a student’s success is their test results and rankings comparing them to their peers. In education and learning, nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is, a lifelong love of learning is the most important element of a student’s life, and the biggest factor that determines their success as students.

What do successful students have in common? 

In my experience, it’s a great teacher. Or if they’re lucky, several great teachers. By far the most important element of a student’s life, a teacher shapes the way a student learns and perceives their education. 

The teacher that did this for me in my senior years at Hurstville Boys’ High School was Mr. Sender. He taught all levels of math and maintained a standard of teaching I remember clearly to this day. He was very methodical, teaching step by step, explaining thoroughly and checking that each of us understood as he went along. He took the time to answer our questions and always linked a topic back to the real world. 

Mr. Sender was also an excellent role model who demonstrated an inspiring work ethic, attitude and integrity. He had high expectations of us and challenged us to challenge ourselves. The fact that he was also just a really nice guy who treated us as individuals, meant we responded in kind and listened to what he had to say. As my enjoyment in learning maths increased, I found myself enjoying the actual process of learning itself. As a result, I became motivated to improve my understanding and marks in my other subjects. This is something that has stayed with me for life.

The teacher-student dynamic

Positive dynamics between teacher and student is one of the most important factors that determines a student’s success. In order to achieve these dynamics, a teacher must make the process of learning the material enjoyable for the student, without compromising.

If a parent asks me to assess their child by giving an exam, my approach is quite different. I ask the parent to bring their child along to a class, to see how they learn from me, and observe the relationship that can be developed between a teacher and student. Here are a few of the things I do.

1. Setting up an environment for learning in my classroom. In order to learn, a student needs to feel comfortable and respected. As a teacher, I communicate to the student that I will teach them things of value, and the student needs to be open to receive the information. 

2. Aiming to support and develop confidence in my students. My job is help them learn to answer questions that they were previously unable to do, or giving them a simpler approach to answering questions. This involves going over a concept and tracking back to where they lack understanding, and then filling in the gaps from there. 

3. Relating a concept to the world around us. Learning about topics and concepts out of context is difficult for students to connect to. I always make the material I’m teaching relevant and interesting to students by giving some background on a concept, or explaining the real-world application for a formula or theory. 

If I can acquire these dynamics based on a reliable teacher-student relationship, then the rest is easy. 

Becoming open to learning

Once the student has experienced the proper dynamics of learning, they will become more receptive in other subjects at school. This opens the possibility for the student to learn from other teachers in the same way. Education then, is not viewed competitively, but rather as a vehicle to better yourself, and your understanding of the subject you’re participating in. 

My hope is that an enjoyment of learning influences the student in other aspects of their lives, with whatever they may aspire to do in future.

Until next time, Rob

If you’d like any more information feel free to contact us here, or email us at info@rockdalecollege.com.au ~ RCC Team

The Year 12 Countdown: 5 Tips to Prepare for your HSC Trials

If you’re aiming to make a serious effort to gain the highest possible ATAR score, you know then how important the HSC Trials are in the lead up to your final exams. The HSC Trials are the last round of assessments that make up your in-school assessment marks.

To avoid stress in the days and weeks leading up to your HSC Trials, your preparation should be well underway. At this point in time, you have less than four months to finish and understand content and prepare to sit an exam up to three hours long.

The best course of action is to study slowly and consistently to lay down a solid foundation of knowledge, rather than cram information that you think will earn you easy marks. If you’re ready for the trials, you’ll be ready for the HSC.

5 Tips to get you HSC Trial Ready

Tip #1: Create a visual month-by-month calendar of assessments

  • Clear the view in front of your study space, make some room on your walls or noticeboards, and be free from distractions.
  • Draw up or print out some monthly calendar sheets. Download some free ones here to print.
  • Mark down every assessment or exam you have along with their percentage weighting. Colour-code by subjects or weightings.

By doing this, you’re not only mapping out your year, but you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you mark each of them off as you complete them.

Writing it all out for yourself also means that nothing will catch you by surprise and you can plan ahead, long before receiving your assessment notification.

Tip #2: Create a realistic study timetable

You need to get into a consistent study routine in order to see the benefits. To develop successful study habits, you need to make sure your schedule is realistic and that you’re more than capable of getting through most of it.

A study timetable means that you’re keeping up-to-date with the topics you’re studying in class, staying on top of homework and assessments, and gradually increasingly your knowledge base.

To learn how to create your own study timetable, see our blog post here.

Tip #3: Know and read the curriculum for each subject

It’s important to remember that if it’s in the syllabus, you can be assessed on it – regardless of whether or not your school teacher has covered it in class. To counter this, get into the habit of checking the topics your teacher has covered against the curriculum, for each subject.

If you find anything missing, make sure you actually chase up the information! This is the best method there is to close the gaps in your knowledge for each subject, and minimise the chance of seeing a question that will catch you by surprise.

Tip #4: Set some goals – both short term and long term

Having something to aim at is a proven way to stay motivated and be clear on what you want to achieve. While you want your goals to be realistic, you don’t want them to be so easy to achieve that you don’t feel challenged and engaged. Your goals need to stretch you. Make your goals measurable, so that you are held accountable, and also so you can celebrate each win.

Example Short-Term Goals: I will achieve a minimum of 80% of assigned hours from my study timetable.

Example Short to Mid-Term Goals: Before the next term starts, I will have finished all my study notes for each subject.

Example Mid-Long Term Goals: I will have every single essay written, drafted, checked and practiced one week before the Trials.

Example Long-term Goals: I will achieve an ATAR of minimum 80.

Tip #5: Look after yourself

Take cues from professional athletes with long-term goals in mind where consistency is key. If you want to perform at your peak, you need to help your body and brain get you there, day by day, a little at a time.

  • Stay hydrated with at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Exercise at least twice a week to clear your mind and keep your heart healthy.
  • Keep a check on your food intake – focus on protein, fatty acids from fish and nuts, vegetables, fruit. Keep sugar to a minimum.
  • Don’t pull all-nighters! It’s a guaranteed way to get lower marks, make careless mistakes, and generally feel lethargic and sick. If you prioritise at least eight hours sleep a night, your memory will improve, you’ll be more focused, you’ll feel better and you will deal with stress more effectively.

Summary: Quality over Quantity

Whether you’re thinking on starting university, a trade or working after your HSC exams, having a schedule for the year means learning to be more efficient, handle a myriad of tasks and better prepare yourself for life.

If you just study hard, sporadically or cram, you’ll end up frustrated and burned out before the end of the year.

Set your goals, focus on learning the curriculum, develop your strengths and aim to improve the gaps in your knowledge.

If you’d like any more information feel free to contact us here, or email us at info@rockdalecollege.com.au ~ RCC Team

How to Create a Study Timetable

A study timetable means that you’re keeping up-to-date with the topics you’re studying in class, staying on top of homework and assessments, and gradually increasingly your knowledge base.

  1. Draw up a 7 day grid. You can download our free template here.
  2. Write down the things that are not flexible, like school or work hours.
  3. Set up two or three hour working blocks for every subject. If it is a two-unit subject, it should feature twice in your study timetable week. Generally, you should be studying two – three hours per unit per week. If it’s a challenging course or requires a lot of time, set aside the three block for it.
  4. Set aside one-hour break/meal times between subjects.
  5. Take one night off a week for a social and mental break.

Remember nothing is set in stone, and try to follow your timetable as closely as you can. Reassess if it’s not working for you, and draw up a new schedule.

Do a different set-up for during school terms and holidays when your schedule changes for a period of time.

If you’d like any more information feel free to contact us here, or email us at info@rockdalecollege.com.au ~ RCC Team