Two things to do at school that will set you up for life
I wish I had tried more things when I was younger
I had a conversation beginning of this year with a 16 year old who was about to go into his final year of school.
We were talking about doing the things that we love doing.
He said to me, “Jane, I wish I had done more things when I was younger. So when I came to year 11 and 12, I would know exactly what I love doing and what I’m good at.”
I thought that was a really reflective, thoughtful thing for a 16 year old to say. I didn’t want him beating himself up about that because he has time after school to continue to try things.
Despite this if he had his time again, he would try to squeeze more in because he wanted to do well in his final years and he understood he was more likely to do that if he was really enjoying what he was doing. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after school, he just knew his next step was doing well in year 12.
It made me think about the subject choices I made when I was his age.
Thinking about subject choices at school
I chose Maths 1, Chemistry, and French. Instead of subjects that I was really good at, which were Home Economics, Art and History. I did that because I didn’t think they were intelligent subjects and I didn’t think there was a career in them. I couldn’t see a path for them.
So for the next couple of years, I saw my friends bring in fantastic fun homework from their Art and their History and their Home Economics subjects while I was practicing my French verbs.
It made me think about the importance of those last two years.
I had a quick look at what our average lifespan is. On average humans live about 80 years. These two years of school, that we place so much importance on, represent about two to two and a half percent of our life. And the interesting thing is we’re assessing the performance of these two years in a way that we will probably never experience again.
Do what you are good at and love doing at school
What I mean by this is we are assessing our short term memory. Our ability to remember information and regurgitate it back onto a page.
That doesn’t exist in real life.
In life outside school, performance isn’t measured that way. Not in our work, in our travel, in our family life. We will always be able to draw on the experience of others and look up information to solve a problem or answer a question. We don’t need to remember everything that we learn.
Interestingly, there was a research project done a few years ago on year 12 physics students. Their class average was A+ at the end of their final year. They all agreed to come back three months later to do that same assessment again. The class average for the assessment three months later was an F.
Now that is a huge difference in three months, and it tells me that they retained none of the information they had learned.
It made me think about the way we measure performance in these final two years. It is atypical and it’s not going to be replicated in life. To add salt to the wound there’s a whole lot of anxiety attached to performing well in those final years because we believe it is going to affect the rest of our lives.
Why then, don’t we tap into those things that we are naturally good at and love doing in those final two years, so we can make the most of them and set ourselves up nicely.
So when we go out into the world, we are at the ready to seize opportunities with those things that we are naturally good at and love doing. That to me seems like a good way to set yourself up for an interesting and happy life.
I didn’t know when I finished school that the creative industry was going to be a $3 trillion industry. But if I had lent into those things that I was naturally good at, at school, when I left it, I could have jumped on that bandwagon confidently.
We cannot know what the future holds for us, but we can know what we are good at and we can know what we love doing.
I would really encourage kids, particularly those that are thinking about how they want to spend their final couple of years at school, to really reflect on these two things when they’re making their choices:
- What am I good at
- What do I love doing
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence in education that suggests if you love doing it, you will perform better at it. So it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
We want our kids to come home from school happy, knowing that they have had another good day of loving learning and building confidence in the person they are becoming.
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