October 26, 2023

Rector’s eNews – 11 October 2023

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As we move into the Christmas quarter, I reminded the boys at Assembly yesterday that this is an exam term and that, after all the successes of the C Block Journey, the D Block Pondoland expedition and other features of the sporting and cultural calendar, there needs to be a very clear academic focus in the term ahead.

In this term, all boys move towards their end of year examinations which, in the case of the matriculants, start next week. By no means am I suggesting that they should not play sport or take part in other activities: it is a fallacy to think that teenage boys can be taken out of their normal programme of all round activity and achieve success through doing so. Our research at Michaelhouse shows that those who are used to a programme of sport and suddenly stop it decline in their academic performance. The reasons are not only related to the consequences of the reduction of exercise and the adverse effect on their concentration and well-being, but also because boys, perhaps as opposed to girls, can find that their lives lack all round purpose without the camaraderie and sense of direction that exists in the sort of activity which allows for a release of energy. I realise that a number of boys in their matric term wish to “give up” sport in order “to work” and this seems to be common practice in many schools but, with a sensible coordinated programme for each day and week, it is entirely possible and, in fact, easier to maintain one’s academic focus at the same time as engaging in the normal activities outside of that focus.

I pointed out to the boys that most of those who excel academically do simple things well by concentrating in lessons, and asking questions when they don’t understand. They spend time in prep productively consolidating material they have covered in class or getting ahead of the game by exploring the next topic of study. They plan their days and weeks carefully, they meet deadlines, they hand in work on time and they keep up with the game. If they fall behind, then they ensure that they get themselves up to speed over a weekend or at a similar time. They are proactive and seek the best ways to learn and are active learners rather than just waiting for the teacher to tell them what to do next. As I have suggested, none of this is difficult, but it requires organisation and commitment and, indeed, constant application. It is just like the sort of application and commitment and consistency that is required to do well in any sport or any musical activity or, indeed, any activity in any field. I put it to the boys that they can create their own success in the academic sphere and that the rewards will be there for them. But it does not just happen without a dedicated approach in class and in prep and the striving for specific and clearly-defined academic targets.

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