When we are travelling with our families, possibly the most frustrating question our children can ask us (especially if we are only 10 minutes into the journey) is “are we there yet?”
This short but annoying question doesn’t just have to be asked in regard to travel and can apply to many aspects of our life.
Often, we forget the power of “yet”. We might not be good at something or have mastered a new skill…yet. But if we give it time then success or mastery may come. We need to be patient and keep persevering and not give up or move on too quickly.
This idea also applies to our children and the expectations we have for them. They may not be good at something or have reached their potential… yet. I often worry about the unrealistic expectations I see placed on many children and the stress, anxiety and pressure this causes. In fact, how many of us adults have reached our potential? I always say the day that I think that I have mastered and perfected being a school principal is the day I need to retire. Even after 16 years as a school principal I believe that I have so much more to learn and I can improve in so many ways, as I’m not quite there…yet. It is “yet” which gives us hope and keeps us going each day.
This idea of yet is particularly applicable to our Year 12 students at the moment. Our Year 12 HSC students commence their exams next Thursday and the IB students start their exams in a few weeks’ time. We know that this can be an incredibly stressful time for students as they have many expectations placed on them. In our Australian culture, some of us can have an absolute obsession with ATARS, final marks and school league tables. However, an ATAR does not determine or guarantee success or failure and it certainly does not define a person. I know of many adults who are incredibly successful in their chosen fields who scored what might be determined a dismal ATAR by today’s standards, and likewise, I know many people who scored an exceptional ATAR but they have not been happy with their chosen career.
There is no way that an ATAR can be a reflection of all you have learnt in 13 years at school or the type of person you have become. In fact, how can 13 years of schooling be summarised by a single mark? In the workplace when a person retires after many years in a career they are not given a test and their whole career summarised and then judged as a single mark. Yet this is what we do in education.
The ATAR is purely a system for entry into University. Fortunately, now there is a growing realisation that the ATAR is not the be and end all of life after school and that there are many different ways to gain entry into whatever you wish to do. With many different pathways and alternatives available and universities around the world changing their entrance requirements, the importance of the ATAR alone in determining course suitability is waning.
What is far more important than your ATAR is working out what it is that actually motivates you, what you feel passionate about and what you enjoy doing. This is the real purpose of 13 years of schooling and in fact many people continue to spend many years after school working out what actually gives them a sense of purpose, fulfillment and enjoyment.
I found this excellent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, which I feel mirrors my own thinking and is good food for thought for us as parents. Often, we spend so much time fixating on the ATAR of our children that we forget to focus on having fun and helping them to find their passion and working out what it is that they love to do.
Mark Hemphill | Head of School