High Notes, Vol 16 No 38, November 27 2015

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From the Principal

High Talent
Kieren Guan (7R) is an international level ice speed skater. He is competing in Shanghai and Manila in December and January. Great job, Kieren!

In last week’s High Notes I misled people as to the numbers permissible in Year 11 Extension 1 mathematics. For 2016, the number should read 164. We are having 7 extension classes and 2, 2-unit classes.

Weights Room for 2016 – Policy change
High’s weights room offers exceptional value for money. The room has appropriate equipment for preparing the bodies of teenage boys but crucially, it is constantly supervised. When handling weights, technique is vitally important and boys need to learn the correct way to lift. Kurt Rich, our Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, is a well-credentialed and experienced trainer. His presence ensures that the boys are training safely and sensibly. So as well as getting gym facilities, clients have a supervisor and adviser to help them during their unlimited visits. Costs for this service are held down to a minimum and reduced by boys taking out a full year’s membership. For 2016, a full year Weights Room membership costs just $231. Boys wishing to have full year membership must register and pay by 29 February 2016.

For 2016 it is proposed that no term memberships will be offered. Boys who restart after absences of a term in the Weights Room have to be retrained by Kurt when he should be concentrating on existing members. Boys will have another opportunity to sign up for the weights room at the beginning of term 2. The cost will be $200 for the rest of the year. No further membership opportunities will be offered.

Why Do Dr Du?
Each year at High our teachers have to negotiate with students who are attending coaching colleges, principally for assistance in mathematics and English. Coaching, as opposed to tutoring, does not offer one-on-one personalised instruction. Consequently, parents are paying for a series of lessons or a course of instruction in a group. Typically, at all year levels, coaching colleges offer to teach clients in groups of varying sizes their year level syllabus in advance of their class teacher at school.  For more precocious students, the course might be from a year ahead in the same stage or even higher. To increase student participation levels, homework for coaching college instruction is routinely set.

The presumed benefits of the coaching college experience are twofold. First, it is claimed that students are more confident when attending regular classes at school because they are familiar with the work being presented. Second, parents feel that they have given their sons the best competitive advantage that they could provide for them.

However, negative effects are experienced by teachers. They report that coached students quite often become inattentive and attempt to distract others because they are confident that they already understand the concepts of the topic being introduced and can do the operations required to solve problems. Too often, students even recount that their homework was incomplete due to the demanding deadlines and strict compliance imposed by coaching colleges on the completion of their set work. Competing demands by instructors result in confusion and stress.

The professional competence of teachers is also assailed by the assumption that students need to have everything taught twice. In addition, students become restricted in their ability to choose how they will spend their out of school time because of the regular routine of attending classes after school. There is an imbalance inherent in attending a coaching college because one or two subjects or courses are occupying much more of a student’s time than usual and, unless extra time is allocated during the week, will detract from time spent on other subjects. In some cases an undue financial burden is placed on families trying to keep their sons in regular coaching on top of other commitments. The cost can sometimes have negative financial effects on the school, too.

When considering accessing professional assistance for your son, please consider whether the intended learning benefit is prospective or reflective. Do you really want your son to be exposed to content ahead of his peers or would you want him to identify areas of weakness and do extra work with a professional tutor to strengthen them?  My strong advice is that while remedial tutoring one-on-one on an occasional basis as needs arise can be effective, class-based coaching offering preview pedagogy is limited value for money.
Dr K A Jaggar

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