Learning to love learning

Dear Parents and Caregivers,

Learning to love learning

Recently I have been asked two interesting questions by journalists. The first was what was a great piece of advice my dad gave me – to which I replied “some things just need to be instinctive”.  The second question was whether I believed in homework – absolutely!

Practice makes perfect so the saying goes,   which is precisely what homework is – practice. Unfortunately, “homework” has earned a bad reputation due to students being given ‘make work’, or project work for parents. Sadly, homework also seems to come from a few subjects reinforcing the notion that it is those subjects that are “academic”.

The reality is that whatever learning we choose to undertake, be it skill or knowledge, then practice is a necessity, whether it is piano practice, skills practice from sports coaches, spelling words, reading with mum or dad, or applying techniques to solve algebraic equations. Like everything in life balance is important. The same applies to homework. Hard work mixed with play is good. Continual stress is not.

Science tells us that humans can’t multi-task. Yet we undertake very complex tasks. Some people learn to excel, others work towards competence.

Allow me to draw upon one of my interests as an example of a complex task. Professional studio musicians are routinely required to sight read music. To achieve this high level of expertise the musician must master the instrument for technique, tone, tuning. They must de-code what is written on the page for pitch and rhythm and style. And then the musician must play in time, in sync with others, and be aware of any random happenings such as waiting and improvising extra music because an artist has missed his or her cue. This is clearly very complex and looks to the untrained eye as if it is multi-tasking.

But it isn’t multi-tasking. The individual building blocks of skills and knowledge have been learned by breaking them into small steps and then practising them until instinctive. Once these are instinctive the mind is free to move to the next step and so on, piece by piece, step by step.

Competence is a long and slow journey of practice and understanding, and trusting that the teacher knows the way. Beyond competence lies mastery. Through this route comes genuine creativity – knowing what you are doing so well that you can explore all the nuances, test the limits, and create something new. Expert teachers know what students need to practice and learn to reinforce the teaching, and this is what students must do to succeed. Teachers also know that practice allows students to increasingly take responsibility for their own learning.

Our young students need to learn that homework (practice) is part of life, it is enabling, it is routine.  It teaches planning of time, taking responsibility for learning and for success. Homework leads us to commit to our learning – to stay with it and work hard.

The most critical aspect however, is that when we practice then we tend to achieve success more frequently, which is satisfying. In turn this builds our confidence, leading to us increasingly taking responsibility for learning and hence the love of learning grows.  Hard work but rewarding.
Planning, persistence, patience and perseverance are the elements of practice that enable success.  This is what homework means at ACG Parnell College; it is an integral part of our wholehearted approach to life. As you read our newsletters and learn of the successes of our students and teachers please join me in appreciating all the practice that has enabled the success.

Kind regards,

Russell Brooke

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