Tuesday, 19 April 2016

"The Best That You Can Do" - Y11's Golden Mean

Jim Bianco is a US-based singer-songwriter who is sadly little known in the UK;  I'm a big fan. I had a YouTube playlist on as I did some marking, when on came, 'The Best You Can Do'. I am absolutely sure this song is not about taking GCSE exams, however I later found myself quoting the song lines in a meeting with a parent and student. 

Finding compromise with students can always be challenging. Many Y11 students still fall into the "You need to be working harder." category. Yet there is a surprisingly high number that fall into the "Please ease up on yourself and your workload.".

This would not be unusual for some of my year group:
  • Wake at: 6.30am
  • Study on bus: 7.30-8am
  • Study in school: 8-8.30am
  • Lessons: 9.05am-12.45pm
  • Revision Session: 1-1.45pm
  • Lessons: 1.50-3.30pm
  • Revision Session: 3.30-5pm
  • Study on bus: 5-5.30pm
  • Homework: 5.30-6.30pm
  • Revision: 7-11pm - or later. Some tell me they work until 1 or 2am.
Failure to do this, in their mind, is to not do what is required. As such, I have had to introduce a 'balance' list for some students for their current well-being. On it I suggest:
  • Have one lunch time per week with your friends
  • Go home at 3.30pm on one night a week
  • Don't discuss school / GCSEs / revision at the dinner table
  • Have one night during the week with no revision
  • Do 30mins of exercise at least 3 times a week
  • Go to bed at 10pm as often as you can
  • Put your phone in a different room for at least an hour a night
As for all humans, well-being often gets ignored in pursuit of some 'greater' goal - in this case GCSE exams. As I have pointed out, usually grades aren't gained or lost in the final two weeks of school; odd marks maybe. Grades are really achieved through two years of hard work, and for many of these students in danger of burning themselves out, they have done just this.

I have introduced The Philosopher (Aristotle) to some Y11s. The Golden Mean is the desirable middle-ground that falls between two extremes: the one of excess and the other of deficiency:

Courtesy of La Audacia de Aquiles

For Aristotle, the balance are seen as 'virtues', which are essential for achieving the ultimate goal, happiness. Sadly, Nicomachean Ethics never quite gets to the section on GCSE revision. If it did, what would it have said? What is our Golden Mean for final exam preparation? 

Returning to Jim Bianco, I think what I hope for, is that every single Y11 that arrives to pick up their results envelop in August can say, "I did my best". Whatever results have been achieved, no one can ask for any more. 

an uppercut a right
you punch with all your might
you hope they throw the fight 
before the bell stops ringing
your face is stinging, the crowd is singing
go out swinging...

do the best that you can do
and hope you make it through [lyrics]

Image courtesy of BMI

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