Making the most of your ability and The Five P’s


28 February, 2020


In preparing for the Senior School Assembly two weeks ago, I realised that I have been teaching for nearly 30 years. Having worked with and watched thousands of young people at schools both similar and quite different to Scotch Oakburn, I have noticed some common elements of those who are involved in a variety of activities, manage their various commitments, hold positions of responsibility and proudly achieve in all areas of involvement, in and beyond the classroom.

I have distilled these elements down to The Five P’s: Prioritise, Preparation, Participation, Persistence and Passion. Many things that are worth striving for and achieving are not easily obtained, which is what attracts them to us and why we get such a sense of pride when we reach our goals. Whether those goals are in the classroom, on the stage, on the field, in the bush or a social setting, The Five P’s provides a structure that gives students confidence in their quest.

Prioritise: Some things are more important than others and so time addressing those should take priority. Be bold and set challenging goals to provide a purpose and incentive. Commitment to priorities is important if goals are to be achieved and having the faith to finish what is started, even if events are panning out differently along the way, will always achieve more than giving up partway through. Procrastination is the enemy and so doing the hard things first relieves potential stressors. Technology has the potential to be a distraction from priorities and so make sure the use of technology is helping not hindering.

Preparation: There are a range of things that fall into this category, that are really about looking after ourselves and have a positive effect on potential. Sleep, diet, exercise and time to relax all combine to have a significant impact on our mood, our health, our ability to concentrate and learn, and our general functioning. Teenagers need a minimum of 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, so there should not be any technology in bedrooms. A healthy balanced diet and regular exercise are a must if we are to be the best version of ourselves. We can remove stressors in life by being organised, especially around homework. Family are number one and simple things like eating dinner together and sharing the days’ events are important in our busy lives. Finally, being prepared to ensure punctuality and good presentation, sets the scene for our engagement in whatever we are doing.

Participation: Learning is not easy, it’s a two-way street and requires the engagement of both teacher and taught. Students can also assist their understanding by helping others. As Aristotle said, “Those who know, do, those who understand, teach.” A positive approach is to focus on the process and be confident that the result will take care of itself. Finally, stay involved in College life beyond the classroom (Pastoral/House and Co-curricular); those who do, achieve more in all areas.

Persistence: Persistence is a valuable character trait that can be practiced and developed by adopting a positive/growth mindset, recognising that understanding and skill development will come with effort and determination. In doing that, students will ‘learn how to learn’, which is ultimately far more valuable than being able to memorise facts. In persisting in the pursuit of challenging goals, there will be times that test resolve, but with persistence in tackling these challenges and overcoming them provides the opportunity for growth.

Passion: Throughout life, it is important to keep doing the things you love. Engagement in the moment brings great joy and reward whereas too much focus on the future can lead to opportunities being missed. One place that unbridled passion for life and learning abounds is in our Early Learning students. Their fascination for learning and for the world around is inspiring and infectious. Form a study group, do some extra reading or investigation and learn beyond the minimum. As Nick Green, dual Olympic gold medalist said, “The difference between good and great is passion.”

Our students have great capacity and enormous potential. I look forward to observing the realisation of that potential in the future.

Andy Müller

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