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Monday, February 12, 2007

The Right Environment

How can you provide support to your child? How can you provide the optimum learning environment to help your child to do as well as possible in the eleven plus examinations?

I don’t think that it is wrong for your child to understand that to pass the eleven plus examinations your child is taking part in a competition. This is a competition for places in a school - not a running race or a darts competition – but your child still has the opportunity of beating other children for a place. Equally, your child could be beaten by others.

The Olympics is a `big’ competition, beating your next door neighbour for the best roses in the street is no less important. To win a competition you have to demonstrate that you are better than others. In eleven plus terms to win a place at grammar school your child may come against other children who are as able but possibly not as well motivated.

There has to be a will to succeed. To succeed you will have engineer a desire to be a winner.

About five years ago we had a very able ten year old girl who was having lesson with us when it transpired that she was also going to two other tutors for eleven plus work. We had tested her before she started lessons and had suggested that as she was doing so well that she didn’t really need to have lessons – but that all she needed to do was one or two papers a week at home. Her father, however, was certain that he wanted her to have lesson with us.

Her father had sat in on all the lessons – and we had not minded that. Naturally we had tried to give her appropriate work for a child of her intellect and motivation. Her father withdrew her angrily one week when we went over a topic we had covered the previous week. She had understood what was expected of her – but had asked us if she could do more of the same in her next lesson.

Her father over heard this – and told her that she could go over the same topic with one of her other tutors. He told her, and us, that as she was going to three tutors she should be expected to pick something up immediately. He closing argument was that if we were not good enough to explain a topic in such a way that a child could pick it up immediately, it was not worth his child attending lesson with us.

So how is that girl going to learn to be a winner? I can understand a parent wanting their child to win at all costs. That is not cheating it is simply called a drive to win. But if this very able girl was not given the opportunity to think for herself, and have some degree of control over her learning, how would she learn test her own will to succeed?

We have heard stories about children leaning to dance with bleeding feet. We have heard of almost impossible swimming regimes for young children. We know about children being expected to do two or three hours of extra homework every night. The problem is that while their parents and coaches or teachers may feel that they are insisting on driving their children for the best possible reasons – they may not be acting in the best interests of the child.

So what we want is a well balanced approach to the whole eleven plus event. We want the right learning environment. We want an unstressed but motivated child. We want parents who are balanced and `normal’. We want teachers and tutors who do their best – but not at any cost.

We never did hear what happened to the girl. We hope she passed and got into the right school. She will be started her `A’ Levels in September of this year. I wonder how she has coped. I wonder if she still thinks that she is a winner.

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