Sunday, 1 March 2009

Yes we can

‘’And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words: Yes. We. Can. ‘’ (Barack Obama)

After a really relaxing holiday last week with my family in London we resumed on Monday with an in-service training day for all staff. The day focused on Raising Expectations, Developing Whiteboard Skills and an evaluation of our recent work in regard to Holocaust education as part of our developing Curriculum for Excellence. The day began with a session on expectations of pupils. In summary, what I said was that we should all expect more, especially from our pupils entering S5. At Liberton, I feel that too many of our S5 pupils take the safe route in S5 by sitting Intermediate 2 and too few Highers. I am pleased to say that most subsequently do very well in S6. An increase from 8 to 42 applications by S6 pupils for university places in the past 4 years suggests we are moving in the right direction!

Currently, pupils are returning course choice forms for next session . To assist them, teachers provide recommendations on what level of study is most appropriate for them. I suspect some staff have opted to make a recommendation based on the pupil's prelim performance rather than what they are genuinely capable of.

I am a great believer in getting others to aim high, and, when the going gets tough, to work harder. As parents and educators we have a key role in getting pupils to aim high and to support when the going gets tough. As a Headteacher I have added responsibility in getting others to aim high.

I don’t always get it right! I can recall one example from my family life that illustrates this point. Last summer Alice, my wife, asked why we were content with both girls still using stabilisers on their bikes. Jenny was 7 and Lucy 5. I didn't really think that either was ready for life beyond stabilisers, but how wrong I was. That night I got the tools out and removed the stabilisers from both bikes. Within 24 hours Jenny was cycling around the garden, and, on the following day Lucy also managed her maiden cycle. Both girls fought it difficult initially, just as they would have done when they took their first faltering steps. Knowing that we only utilise around 2% of the brain’s capacity and with continuing encouragement and support who knows what they can achieve!

In every walk of life, we sometimes need to remove the stabilisers and get out of our comfort zones if we are to achieve our potential.

‘’A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.’’ (Patricia Neal, Actress)

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