The first step towards a student feeling inspired by their work is helping them to feel interested in it. This is why a tailor-made programme of mentor led classes can be so valuable; it's for your child and your child alone. Meet Myra and Andy, two recent successes of BE's Education Consulting:
Myra Zhu received 5 TOP UK schools' offers
When Myra first arrived at BE, she seemed to me to be a quiet but nervy little girl that was afraid of being too assertive or even visible. She was also such a perfectionist in her work that she would often not do her homework with fear of getting something wrong and this could also (sorry Myra!) result in a flood of tears if she found her homework difficult.
Teachers at a UK school would expect their students to make mistakes and often foster an atmosphere in which mistakes are encouraged: better to get something wrong and learn why it is wrong than not to do it at all. So this was exactly what I had to with Myra in preparation for some very challenging entrance exams. I detected a strong potential in Myra for the humanities so the schools we had applied to were particularly competitive but she did have a long way to go. Often in class to begin with, she would be reluctant to maintain eye contact and rarely ventured far for answers.
The words 'I don't know' were like a catch-phrase. Given her ample ability, this could be frustrating and I often wanted to write in YES YOU DO across the board but with Myra rather than telling her the answer it was always a case of asking the right questions and then watching her seem almost amazed that she'd been sitting on the answer the entire time.
For a student who loves reading as much as Myra, she seemed awfully scared of writing. Each week, her answers to writing questions were under length and incredibly unambitious, using as simple vocabulary as possible. We spent a great deal of time discussing what might makes a good story and how she might use the right words to a piece of writing's advantage. Using the books and reading comprehensions as a way into analysing how writing works, over-time Myra's confidence as a student grew immensely. Her creative writing is up there now with the most imaginative and enthusiastic ofthe students I teach. Having watched her turn into a student who is no longer afraid to get questions wrong on the path to getting things right, we began preparing for the school interviews.
I had often seen Myra seem rather shy and I knew that interview was an important hurdle. We began focussing on her interview and critical ability and though her interview skill improved immensely in the classroom, I was equally as nervous that faced with the real interviews she might be liable to return to her previous inhibited and nervous ways. Instead, she was a tour de force in charm. Deploying answers and questions that we had rehearsed, she also seemed to appear so confident as to be utterly happy chatting away with members of staff during the school visits leaving every school confident in her ability.
I am pleased to say that not only did Myra receive offers from all of her schools, but she got into her first choice, the very competitive St Mary's Calne. Well done, Myra!
Andy Wang was admitted by Oakham School
I knew Andy was going to be a difficult student. Initially he had what teachers consider a major issue in EAL learners; reasonably good aural and spoken English but especially poor writing and reading abilities. This suggested that his problems were not simply a case of not knowing English.
Andy's main problem was his attitude when it came to learning: he didn't want to. Andy was bright but clearly becoming quite teenagery and objected to being told what to do. He had grown accustomed to having a teacher dictate information to him and he'd evidently not found any joy in his learning and eventually decided that enough was enough. So, the Andy I met at first was very lazy, so much so that he often appeared to be falling asleep in class. He had clearly become a student that didn't see himself as thekind of student that could ever like learning. Andy clearly found the first few classes to be an adjustment period. Unused to a class being more of a conversation between a student and a teacher, he clearly found the demands of this dynamic to be intense.
It required him to always be thinking. However, over-time he gradually began to relax into it and realised that though it was very much work intensive, it was also more informal in other respects. This meant Andy was able to explore topics in a manner that he hadn't before, finding interest in things he didn't know he'd ever had. It was this way that Andy had become the articulate conversationalist that he is today, able to express himself fully ona vast range of topics, as he demonstrated so brilliantly in his school interviews. However, this was not all the work done of course.
Andy still had an acute allergy to homework and clearly considered it some form of injustice that he might have to do any. Week in week out, he would turn up to class without having done his homework and progress with his writing was slow moving at best. He wanted to do better and did appear to be frustrated with his progress not being faster but this still didn't seem to motivate him at all.
He often appeared to be quite tired, a sign that any teacher can immediately identify the cause of in a young teenage boy: late night video games. Quickly, we began making arrangements with Andy's parents to timetable his phone use and homework schedule out-side of class giving him a degree of structure he had been unable to find himself and of course, becoming very strict with him during class hours.
Finally, the homework started coming and the progress over time was very satisfying to watch. For Andy a topic wasn't fully digested until he'd spoken about it, so after exercises in grammar and vocabulary building I would always give Andy an opportunity to discuss what he'd learned and each week, his homework had taken a step forward.
Seeing Andy do well in his interviews was excellent but receiving the positive feedback on his written papers was the news I'd been waiting for all year: Congratulations Andy on his offer to Oakham School, you have an exciting future up ahead.
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