Over the break I read a lot about education and schools but one of the most striking things I read was an article by Daniel Hu about his journey to HSC success “I got an ATAR of 99.85 but the true high achievers are my parents” (Daniel Hu, SMH December 18, 2017)
There were two things that stood out for me in this article:
- The power and positive influence of parents in their child’s academic success
“Both my parents are Chinese migrants, coming to Australia to provide the next generation (me) with the opportunity for a bright future. They are uneducated, and can barely speak any English. They worked as cleaners. We lived well below the poverty line and to this day my parents earn well below what the average Australian earns each year…My dad worked countless jobs in the cleaning industry during the day and became my personal teacher during the night.….”My dad, despite not knowing a word of English, used a Chinese-to-English dictionary to help me with my homework during primary school, a task that took most students 10 minutes to complete but took me three hours.”
There is nothing new here. Educational researchers have long known the positive (or negative) impact parents have on their childrens’ attitude to school and their capacity to influence outcomes: “Parents hold great responsibilities in raising their child and in becoming their child’s first teacher. As the child’s first teacher and role model, parents face the important task of having conversations, providing certain experiences and creating a literacy rich environment within the home that fosters and aids in a child’s language acquisition and social and emotional development.”
- The discounting of the myth that only the naturally talented student can excel in the HSC
“I worked assiduously, trying to maximise my potential in every subject. I am not an intelligent kid. In terms of intelligence, I’m probably below average. Yet, that never fazed me. One important lesson I learnt through these 13 years of schooling is that success doesn’t necessarily belong to those who are naturally talented, or those from wealthy family backgrounds. It belongs to those who work hard.”
As so many students find as the progress through education, talent without effort will only take you so far. The future belongs to those who develop their talents, work hard and know how to turn a failure into future success.
Grit, resilience and intelligent optimism are not just buzzwords, nor are they simply keys to academic success, they are vital keys to a well-lived life.
“If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then realize that you are its author. Every day you have the chance to write a new page in that story. I want to encourage you to fill those pages with responsibility to others and yourself. If you do, in the end you will not be disappointed.” John C. Maxwell, Talent Is Never Enough: Discover the Choices That Will Take You Beyond Your Talent
“Potential” means nothing if you don’t do anything with it. Potential defines where someone starts rather than where s/he finishes. If someone is intelligent, talented or has a natural flair for something, it means s/he has a definitive edge in that said area. However, does this edge always translate to the final result? No.
Intelligence is only one of the parameters which result in success. In fact some intelligent people fail to achieve success because:
- they overestimate their intelligence or underestimate the intelligence of others
- they feel they are way too intelligent to have to do anything → like try harder
- they may not be so good in other qualities that lead to success → hard work, persistence and motivation are qualities that can be more important than the generic ‘intelligence’
- they might not take too well to roadblocks: Some intelligent people feel that just because they are intelligent, everything they do will be absolutely easy (that’s the way most things are for them) so as soon as they hit something which they cannot do in one shot, they just don’t do it, because they do not know what it is like to work hard or spend hours trying to do something.
The definition of success is very very subjective. For each person success can be defined very differently. As the 2018 school year “revs up”, be assured that no matter what level of talent you have in your academic, cultural or sporting life, we will do our best to support you in turning these talents into options for ongoing success.
“You can argue that the HSC system is not beneficial for students. And you can argue that the ATAR is insignificant and should not define you. But for me it is a path to university and a stable job so that I can make sure my kids get an even better education and life….And behind every hard-working student are supportive and selfless parents.” Daniel Hu
Terry Muldoon, St Columba Anglican School Principal