Why Study Shakespeare?

Why Study Shakespeare?

February is the month of love, romance, and all things pink, red, rosey, and chocolatey. Love songs, classical poetry and cheesy greeting card rhymes abound even after Valentine’s Day is over. Here’s one you’ve probably heard of:

‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.’

Those are the opening lines to William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.

There are usually two responses when you ask school students if they like Shakespeare: the majority groan at the sound of his name and tell you how boring or confusing his plays are, and a minority, usually drama students, will express delight at your question, tell you their favourite play and ask for yours.

Did you know that Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ was inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Or that ’10 Things I Hate About You’ is a modern adaption of The Taming of the Shrew? Or that ‘She’s The Man’ is a re-telling of Twelfth Night? Most primary students have never heard of Shakespeare, though they could probably tell you that Romeo and Juliet is a love story. This tells us that Shakespeare’s stories are an integral part of our society and culture, whether or not we know or like his work.

The point of studying Shakespeare, like all literature studied at school, is to teach wisdom and knowledge though experience. Fiction is experiential knowledge as opposed to theoretical textbook knowledge. You might call fiction ‘heart knowledge’ compared to a textbook’s ‘head knowledge’. That’s not to say that textbooks aren’t helpful, but their purpose is informative compared to immersive.

Fiction, whether that be novels, plays, or films, develops our sense of empathy and our understanding of times, cultures and experiences which are not our own. As young adult novelist John Green said, ‘reading is always an act of empathy. It’s always an imagining of what it’s like to be someone else.’ To follow a plot, we necessarily have to imagine how character’s feel and understand why they do what they do. We learn to like or dislike characters by trying to empathise with them.

Fiction forces us to experience the lives of others, to encounter people and situations that we might never experience. When we read, we bring our own experiences to these new encounters and gain wisdom for how to deal with, or how not to deal with situations and people. Shakespeare’s tragic heroes and villains are a great example of what happens when we let pride or jealousy get the better of us or when we don’t surround ourselves with wise counsel.

Sure, Elizabethan verse can be hard to decode without Sparknotes, but once you become more familiar with the language, you’ll quickly understand how funny, compelling and thought-provoking his plays were and why they have come to be part of school syllabi around the world. To start, you might find it helpful to search a Royal Shakespeare Company production on YouTube or watch a movie adaptation to get your head around the story before diving into the original text. For younger students, Andrew Matthews’ A Shakespeare Story books are great chapter-book style summaries of Shakespeare’s more well-known dramas.
It takes practice to understand literary texts and often a guide can be helpful. Nepean Tutoring boasts a host of experienced English tutors who have worked with students of all ages, and across HSC and IB programmes.

To build your child’s confidence and literary analysis skills, look no further than the enthusiastic tutors at Nepean Tutoring. If you have any questions, simply Contact Us and we’ll take care of the rest.

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Reflective climbing for academic success

Reflective climbing for academic success

As we draw nearer to the start of a new school year, it’s worth taking time to think about how our reflections from last year can be turned into actions. Last year, students developed greater resilience through lockdown, learning from home, dealing with the emotional stresses of the 24-hour news cycle and not being able to see their friends face-to-face.

Resilience is often defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity or to overcome challenges. It is likened to failing forward and the well-known expression ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try again.’
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus, said ‘Change is the only constant in life.’ Once we accept that even the most carefully considered study routine, note-taking system, or assignment timeline will experience hiccups, we are more prepared to overcome them and get back on board, adjusting our processes to suit our new circumstances.

The key to developing resilience is to take time to reflect on our experiences, evaluate the efficiency of our processes and the appropriateness of our emotional attitudes and reactions.
Reflection can be tailored to all ages and learning styles. Some students prefer to go on a walk or do something physical to blow off steam in order to help them reflect. Others prefer journal, discuss, paint or draw responses to questions such as:

  • What did I expect to happen?
  • What happened instead? How do I feel about what happened?
  • How did I react? Was my reaction or attitude helpful?
  • How can I adjust my response, my approach, or my environment to overcome the setback?
  • Who can I ask to help me?

Reflection is a worthwhile exercise in the classroom as well as at home, to look back on what we’ve learned and what strategies help or hinder that process so that we can be more effective learners. Throughout each term, a tutor will often ask their student to reflect on their processes to demonstrate and guide the student to become a self-reflective, more independent learner.
Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest American footfall coaches, once said ‘The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.’ In other words, success doesn’t just happen. We don’t get to skip the challenges along the way. Instead, like the mountaineer, we reach the summit by placing one foot in front of the other, climbing up hill. Along the way, we stop to admire the view, we look back and encourage ourselves by how far we’ve come, and we set our sights on the next destination. Sometimes we make mistakes or hit unexpected obstacles. When we do, we stop, assess what went wrong, and make a plan for overcoming the challenge or a way to not make the same mistake.

So as we start a new academic year, encourage your student to reflect like a mountaineer as they climb towards their goals. If academic confidence or achievement is one of their goals, get in touch with our team of experienced tutors who can provide the support and guidance your student needs to reach their summit.

(Photo by Clay Knight on Unsplash)

Silver linings

Silver linings

2020 was a year that changed much of the way we do things. In some cases, the changes have been irritating and time-consuming, such as the fact we can no longer dine in at a restaurant without ‘checking in’ for contact tracing, or that long-awaited international travel plans have been changed or cancelled. Nepean Tutoring, however, has changed for the better.

Our objective has always been to offer a safe learning environment for our students and our tutors. This year, we’ve expanded our services to include online tutoring so our students can still receive vital learning support they need. Our tutors responded swiftly and professionally to the COVID-19 lockdown so our lessons continued uninterrupted. This gave our students the assurance of familiarity and certainty when everything else was in flux.

Our tutors and administration team worked closely together to provide the smoothest transition experience for our students and families. As families from the Blue Mountains to Penrith, from Cranebrook to Glenmore Park, to Wallacia, and across to the Blacktown area grappled with home learning, we’ve forged deeper relationships with parents though phone conversations, emails, texts, our Blog and our Facebook page.

Nepean Tutoring strives to be a holistic educational support company working with K-12 and tertiary students to coach reading, writing, spelling, numeracy, essay writing, organisational habits and study skills. Through our work with NGOs and government agencies, and thanks to countless personal recommendations from our Nepean Tutoring families, the number of students we serve has increased exponentially and is continuing to grow.

During lockdown and beyond, Nepean Tutoring embodied our core philosophy of relational tutoring that assists whole families. Our tutors prioritised the health and wellbeing of our students and regularly encouraged self-care and self-compassion. Our students know we care about them as individuals, not just their grades. Our students know they are more than their accomplishments.

In many ways, COVID-19 has been a tragedy for our world and our communities. As 2020 draws to a close, its helpful to take some time to reflect on what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown.

What are you thankful for?

  • More time spent with family?
  • Getting to sleep in when you’d normally been commuting?
  • Having a chance to slow down and check in with yourself?
  • Prioritising your mental health?
  • Getting to know your neighbours or reconnecting with old friends?
  • Starting a new hobby or reviving an old one?

We don’t know what 2021 holds, nor do we know what the job market will be like by the time our children graduate, but we do know that they’ll have the resilience, adaptability and imagination to solve the challenges of the future.

If you, or someone you know, would like tutoring in 2021, consider the Nepean Tutoring team who always put the student above the syllabus. We have tutors available to tutor online and face-to-face, and most tutors are available for holiday tutoring in January also.

But contact us soon because our offices are closed from Tuesday 22nd December until Monday 11th January so our hard-working admin team can have a little break too.

Our team at Nepean Tutoring wish you and your family a memorable, happy and safe Christmas and New Year.

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When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list

When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list

When you’re stressed out and you know it, and you really want to show it,
When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list.

Did you catch the ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ children’s song reference there? When I was going though a tough time earlier this year, a good friend told me something similar. The song and her revised lyrics got stuck in my head and made me smile even when I was overwhelmed, underslept and trying to work out the next best thing to do.

With HSC, IB, and yearly exams completed, and the summer holidays approaching, you may think it’s a strange time to be talking about anxiety and overwhelm. However we all know that Christmas can be a chaotic time of year. For a student, add to that thoughts about their upcoming reports and thinking ahead about next year and it’s understandable they feel worried and don’t know what to do.

One of the best ways I know to deal with stress is to brain dump all those swirling, chaotic thoughts onto a piece of paper. Usually it’s a piece of scrap paper so I don’t feel pressured to try and structure my thoughts or write them neatly into a nice lined journal. Scrap paper gives me the freedom to write messy, underline key ideas, draw lines all over the page and, if I want, to scrunch it up when I’m done.

Once my thoughts are on paper, I have a visual idea of what’s making me anxious and from there I can triage. I like to sort my messy, unstructured list into the following categories which I first heard about reading Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. (If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend buying a copy for your high-schooler this Christmas!):

  • Urgent and important;
  • Important but not urgent;
  • Urgent but not important;
  • Not urgent and not important.

This matrix makes it easy to distinguish my priorities from those things that feel urgent but aren’t as important as other tasks. I can then add time limits to my tasks and break big tasks like exam revision, reading a novel, or beginning a Major Work, into small, manageable steps that I can use to track my progress.

When our thoughts and emotions are in turmoil it can be really hard to ask for help. Making lists helps to link our feelings to facts. Once I know what pressures I’m facing, I am better able to communicate them to those around me and ask for support. For example, if I’m worried that I’m a slow reader and know I’ll have to read a few books in English next year, once I put that feeling into words, I can ask my teacher for next year’s reading list so that I can get a start on it over the summer break.

Learning is not done in isolation but in families and communities. Parents often tell me that they recognise the signs of stress in their child but they don’t know how to help because their child won’t open up to them. If this is you, consider asking them to write or draw a list of what’s going on for them and volunteer to help them prioritise. Ask them to think of who they could ask for support and encourage them to be proactive. This also allows you to see the ways you might be able to relive some of the pressure they feel.

Nepean Tutoring is open throughout the summer holidays to support and guide your child towards achieving their learning goals, so don’t hesitate to let your tutor know if you’d like some additional sessions in the holidays. If you’re new to the Nepean Tutoring family, simply Contact Us and we’ll connect you with the best tutor to support your child’s education.

(Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash)

What to do about maths anxiety

What to do about maths anxiety

Many students suffer from maths anxiety. The Australian Council for Educational Research estimates that around 20% of students are ‘highly maths anxious’. Signs of a high level of maths anxiety include avoiding the subject, inhibited memory for mathematical concepts, inability to focus, disinterest, and an overall negative attitude towards maths. Ultimately students who are highly maths anxious will avoid all subjects that include maths, which ultimately inhibits their learning and career opportunities.

Maths anxiety is not a diagnosable condition like anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions, however it is important to notice how your child talks about and approaches maths in order to recognise where they need help. Like most health conditions, early intervention can make a decisive difference.

Maths is weighed down by generations of negative myths. You’ve probably heard yourself that ‘maths is difficult’, or ‘maths is for smart people’, or ‘I don’t have a maths brain’. However, these ideas forget that maths is a language of its own, replete with its own symbols, logic, and vocabulary. Just as humans are wired to communicate through language, so too, humans are wired to be mathematicians in various capacities.

In his TED Talk, Australian mathematician, Eddie Woo, said: ‘Mathematics isn’t just about crunching numbers but rather about finding new ways to see problems so we can solve them by combining insight and imagination.’

Learning to understand the beauty and necessity of mathematics is fundamental for reducing maths anxiety. Here are a few examples:

  • Cooking: How many ¼ cup measures make up 1 ½ cups of flour? How much sugar do we need to make a double batch of cookies?
  • Shopping: Why is cooking from home is cheaper than eating out? How many kilos of bananas would equal $5.00 worth?
  • Decorating: How many paint tins do you need to re-paint the living room according to the formula on the tin? Will your child’s bed fit in the space between the wall and the door frame or should it sit under the window instead?

By creatively demonstrating the practicality of maths, we can decrease maths anxiety through frequent, real-life problem solving practice.

Similarly, students tend to feel less anxious about topic quizzes compared to formal exams. The informality of a quiz helps students to focus on a specific area of their knowledge and target their revision accordingly. Small check-ins like quizzes make the process of testing their knowledge less overwhelming.

Regularly monitoring a student’s progress and giving specific, timely feedback is essential for improvement. Regular feedback in small doses, one topic at a time, is more easily understood, less intimidating, and is much easier for the student to apply, compared to receiving a large amount of feedback at once.

Each student learns at their own pace and it is true that some learn mathematical concepts faster than others. Tutoring provides a focused, one-to-one approach to meet your child where they’re at. Our friendly tutors work with your child to set individual learning goals and devise a realistic plan to achieve them, giving specific, relevant, and timely feedback along the way. Our tutors are patient and empathetic, encouraging resilience, self-confidence, and a growth mindset which is an essential trait of successful learners.

By combining everyday talk about applications of maths practicality of maths with tutoring to provide regular feedback and support, you can help to maximise your child’s learning opportunities and reduce their maths anxiety. Contact Us today to see how our team can support your child’s learning.

(Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash)