We’ve enjoyed another great week at school this week. A big ‘shout out’ to our Year 3 and 5 students who have approached the NAPLAN exams with maturity determination and a growth mindset. I have faith that each student has given their very best effort each day.
For me there is a ‘tension’ with my conflicting feelings about NAPLAN. I definitely believe that the tests do not provide the full picture of who children are - what makes an individual remarkable, exceptional and unique. Tests are also a snapshot in time. We celebrate a child’s achievements and contribution in all aspects of their schooling.
Yet, the process of NAPLAN and exams can offer an opportunity for children. We do children no favours if we diminish NAPLAN to such a point that we say the results and the exam process holds no merit. I think a MamaMia opinion piece this week (link here) summed it up well;
Life is full of tests and insisting that they are inconsequential isn’t doing students any favours. Sometimes, we need to work hard under pressure. Sometimes, we need to perform. Sometimes, we need to complete a task in a set amount of time and we will be evaluated on it. That’s life. Sometimes we feel stressed and worried, and have to sit with discomfort. By being prepared and doing our best, we learn that those feelings will pass, and life goes on.
I am sure that you would agree that this thought applies to us adults in our lives. One of the greatest character strengths that we can encourage in children is resilience. The concept of resilience requires us to fall down in order to be able to get back up. The way we learn to approach exams, challenges and mistakes can promote resilience. In contrast, expectations of perfectionism can lead to negative mental health consequences for young people. There is a shocking correlation between perfectionism and lack of resilience, and university students withdrawing or ‘dropping out’.
Our kids need to learn that it’s okay to make a mistake and to learn from this. Similarly feedback for improvement should be viewed as a gift. There must be no shame in failing or making a mistake.
I encourage all parents to help your child/ren to know and embrace the thought that school is the ideal place to fail safely.
Let go of the thought that your child’s mistakes will have a negative impact on their future success, or, if I can say this without possibly offending some - that your child’s mistakes are a reflection of you as a parent… a ‘perfect’ A+ report does not reflect a perfect child. More than ever our children need to know that regardless of the problem, the mistake, or the perceived or actual ‘failure’ - we love, value and embrace them no matter what. If not, children quickly learn that they cannot turn to us (as teachers and parents) for help when they really need it. Hard lessons learned in the care and nurture of a primary school are much ‘safer’ than the same mistakes made as a teenager - especially if over 18 years of age.
We must also be a strong, resilient school community that collectively works together for the wellbeing and flourishing of all children and families. I believe that this is a strength of our school, but we must never take it for granted, and continue to support, understand and have empathy for one another.
Student NAPLAN results provide us with important data that guides the school in identifying individual strengths and abilities, tracking growth and setting improvement goals. The data assists teachers in planning lessons and programs to target the point of needs of learners individually and as a cohort. NAPLAN data also informs the professional learning targets for teachers and for us as a school. For example, if we were to see perhaps weaker Mathematics results, the NAPLAN data helps us to determine areas for ongoing training and development in the teaching of Mathematics.
My own professional mentor challenges my thinking, especially in regard to the pressure of the perfectionistic expectations that I tend to place on myself. One important ‘mantra’ that I have taken on board thanks to my mentor is this:
“I have done my best, with God’s help, with the resources I have.”
This mantra sits perfectly with how I think our kids need to view NAPLAN …treat the opportunity with respect, be thankful for the challenge, and be confident in the knowledge that you gave it your best shot with the resources that at the time. Your NAPLAN results can help you to learn and grow but do not reflect who you truly are, nor will they determine your ultimate success or future. Most importantly, know that with all trials and challenges that will surely come your way, know that God is with you and He loves you unconditionally - no matter what.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Romans 5:3-4
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