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.

(Photo by Jen We 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)

Senior School Transitions

Senior School Transitions

For a student transitioning from Year 10 to Year 11 or from Year 11 to Year 12, their journey through senior school feels both exciting and intimidating.

  • Exciting because they have more opportunities for leadership, wider subject selections, and are closer to the end of their time at school.
  • Intimidating because of the responsibilities and expectations thrust upon them seemingly overnight. They know that previous years have been preparing them for senior school, yet they feel like they’re staring into the unknown with no idea what to expect or how to survive, let alone thrive.

In these transitions, students who are well-organised and self-motivated have a distinct advantage. Even more so, students who are proficient with reading comprehension, writing, and general maths skills. Students who have not found personal motivation for learning or feel behind their classmates often experience anxiety, which can appear to concerned parents and caregivers as worry, irritability, or apathy.
Qualities of successful students, such as diligence, curiosity, and self-motivation, take time to develop, so it is crucial that students feel encouraged and supported as they seek to cultivate a positive attitude to their education.

Some students in year 10 are completing their Preliminary HSC course amongst their other year 10 subjects. Students in Years 11 and 12 need to complete their Major Works (HSC) and Internal Assessments (IB) alongside exams and other assignments. For all students, organisational skills are crucial to managing the competing demands of senior years.

  • All students need an effective method of note-taking and revision.
  • All students need a reliable system for managing email inboxes and cloud-based file storage using Google, Microsoft Office, Canvas, or another online storage platform provided by their school.
  • All students need to allow adequate time for researching and referencing assignments to comply with academic honesty policies.
  • All students need to balance their studies with time for family and friends and getting adequate sleep and exercise. Some students also need to balance extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs with their studies.

Whether your child is academic, sporty, musical, arty, or just looking forward to life after school, all students need to feel supported through times of transition and encouraged to meet new expectations about workloads and responsibilities.

At Nepean Tutoring, each one of our tutors has been there. We know how it feels to juggle competing priorities and we’re well acquainted with the range of emotions that your child is feeling. Our tutors are patient listeners and passionate about sharing realistic advice and giving practical support to help your child reach their learning goals.
No matter what year your child is in, there is no better time to begin working on these essential skills. We have tutors with openings for Term 4 and for the summer holidays, but be quick! These slots are filling up fast, so contact us today. We’d love to welcome you into the Nepean Tutoring family and help your child on the road to successful life-long learning.

(Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash)

Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit Hole

What exactly is curiosity? What do we mean when we say that curiosity is an attribute of successful learners?

‘Curiosity’ is a trait similar to inquisitiveness: it encompasses a desire to question, investigate, and explore how things work and why things are the way they are.

Indira Ghandi once said, “The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” If we want to change the world, or inspire our children to make a difference, we must first be curious about what is before we can imagine what could be.

But how can we curate curiosity in our children when there are a plethora of entertainment options to choose from? How do we inspire inquisitiveness when we have countless devices to occupy our eyes and our thoughts?

To my mind, nothing replaces a day trip to a museum.

  • If you love art, there is the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of NSW, or the National Portrait Gallery.
  • If you love science, there is the Powerhouse Museum or Questacon.
  • If you love books, the Mitchell Reading Room at State Library of NSW is awe-inspiring.
  • If natural history is your passion, there is the National Dinosaur Museum in Canberra or the Australian Museum in Sydney.
  • If you’re interested in ancient history, you can’t go past the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney.
  • If you want to know more about Australia’s national history, the Australian War Memorial and the National Museum of Australia are phenomenal.

I’ll always be a reader; trips to the library will always be as exciting to me as Nutella Fairy Bread. But I’ll also be the first to acknowledge that not everyone loves words as much as I do. The best thing about museums is that they suit every learning style.

There are interactive exhibits for energetic and kinaesthetic learners. Visual learners can behold artistic masterpieces, contemplate infographics, and marvel at architectural wonders. Many museums have audio guides and run tours for those who like to listen and ask questions. And of course, if there wasn’t enough to read during the exhibit, the gift shop will give you the opportunity to purchase a book for more information and as a souvenir to remember your adventure.

And if you’re self-isolating or stuck inside on a rainy day this school holidays, look no further than Google Arts and Culture (https://artsandculture.google.com/). We might not be able to travel physically, but you can virtually explore hundreds of renowned museums and galleries from Australia and all over the world including the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, the Van Gogh Museum, and all of the Smithsonian museums. All you need is an internet connection.

So go on! Incite your family’s imagination this holidays and encourage curiosity by physically or virtually exploring a museum together. Follow your interests and don’t be afraid to lose yourself down the rabbit hole of knowledge. You never know what you’ll discover!

(Photo by Reuben Teo on Unsplash)

Inspiring the Unmotivated Student

Inspiring the Unmotivated Student

Many students go through stages where it appears they are wholly disinterested in school. They might say, “School’s boring,” and without elaborating further, parents feel powerless to help.

Closer observation or speaking to their teachers might reveal underlying factors such as low self-esteem, trouble at home, conflict with friends, physical or mental illness, learning difficulties, or that they are over- or under-challenged in the classroom. Knowing the cause is helpful, but what do you do when nagging your child to do their homework or threatening to take away privileges is has lost its effect?

Ultimately, motivation has to come from within, but parents and teachers can play a significant role in inspiring students to learn. The key thing to remember is that learning is not confined to the classroom. We are constantly gaining knowledge about history, culture, politics, people, and the environment from the news, our entertainment choices, and our discussions with others. As we reflect on our own experiences and empathise with the experiences of others, we are challenging and developing our opinions, and acquiring wisdom for future decisions.

Here are a few approaches you can try to stimulate your child’s curiosity:

  • Identify their learning style (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, introverted, extroverted, etc) and try a different approach to school work that is more appealing. For example, tackle a maths problem by drawing diagrams or study for a history test through a family discussion about the causes and effects of World War One.
  • Encourage participation in family discussions. Sometimes students disengage because they are afraid of getting the answers wrong. Informal discussions about current affairs or theorising about what will happen next in your favourite television drama allows for students to ‘take risks’ in a safe environment where they don’t feel the pressure of comparison. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when your child has a good idea or if you decide to change your opinion. This lets them know that it’s okay to be wrong and that there is no shame in reviewing information and changing your mind.
  • Get out of the house. Go for a walk together to review content for an upcoming exam or unpack a daunting assignment. This might also create space for the student to talk about other issues or struggles which are affecting them.
  • See a movie together. Use their current film, TV and Netflix viewing to discuss plot, themes, soundtrack, and casting. Understanding the storytelling techniques of media they are interested in can spark ideas about the novels and films being studied in class.
  • Make links between the student’s interests and passions and the classroom. If they love sport but hate reading, find articles of game results or personality profiles to make reading more relevant. If they love food but hate maths, try doubling or halving a recipe together to see fractions in action.
  • Highlight progress, no matter how small. Celebrating their wins will help them to see the positives in what they are learning and develop vital self-confidence. Even if their level of improvement doesn’t correspond to your standards of achievement, recognising their accomplishments according to their standards can go a long way towards improving their self-esteem.

Still no luck? Many students find that a fresh face or a new approach can help them to reignite an interest in learning, or deal with any underlying learning problems that are causing them to disengage. At Nepean Tutoring, we boast an extensive team of experienced, enthusiastic, creative tutors. Simply Contact Us and we’ll match a tutor to suit your unique requirements.

Photo by Sébastien LAVALAYE on Unsplash