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It’s hard to believe we are now at the pointy end of the term with many assignments already submitted and final term exams on the horizon. As you will recall, our students from Years 6 to 12 set targets for the semester through the mentoring program at the start of the year. Now is a good time to remind your sons of these targets and ask them what strategies they have put in place to reach them. For example, a student who has set a mid B grade for Mathematics B in Year 12, will have received his assignment results before he goes into his exam. He should be very clear about exactly what grades he will need to achieve in each of the three criteria if he is to successfully hit his target by the end of the term. Of course, hard work and persistence even when a concept is challenging or certain subject matter is not particularly inspiring, is going to be critical to his success.

When I am speaking to my students, I challenge them to put their social lives and their social media/gaming time on hold for the weekends in the lead up to Exam Block. They have a two week break once exams are over – the down time comes after, not before the job is done. When I suggest this, I am often met with resistance as this approach certainly takes self-discipline. Many people are familiar with the famous Marshmallow Experiment conducted in the 1960s at Stanford University. Children were challenged to sit and not eat the marshmallow placed in front of them, while they were left alone. If they didn’t eat the marshmallow until the researcher returned 15 minutes later, they would get a second one as a reward. If they did eat the marshmallow before the researcher returned, they would not get a second one. In other words – one lolly now, or two later… if the child could wait! This study became a longitudinal one, with the children tracked for the next 40 years. It was found that the group of children who could delay gratification, had been more successful in all aspects of life. The experiment has been replicated and refined over the years and there are many other factors that can impact on success in life, but certainly the ability to be disciplined and do what needs to be done before rewarding yourself is going to assist you to be successful.

So, the big question is, ‘can you learn delayed gratification?’ Psychologists say we can – which is great news. One small and easy strategy to help our boys improve in this area would be to support them to break down their goals and give themselves small rewards along the way. For example, a boy who really struggles to walk away from his phone (social media) to do his study, could say to himself that he will do two hours of uninterrupted Chemistry study on Saturday morning and then will take a 20-minute break, have something to eat, stretch his legs and permit himself to pick up his phone.

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, famously said “I think goals should never be easy, they should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time”. This concept of setting challenging goals is further supported by the work of John Hattie whose meta-analysis found that goal setting (if the goals were challenging) had a positive and significant impact on student achievement. A week of dedication to exam preparation is not an unreasonable expectation of our boys if they truly want to reach their targets. I wish them all the best in their upcoming exams.

Ms Elizabeth Gaber - Dean of Administration and Business Intelligence