ANNOUNCEMENT FOR VICTORIAN FAMILIES

As Victorian families face another lockdown with more than just schools closing this time, Melbourne mums and dads are left wondering how stage 4 affects home tutoring. With no visitors allowed to the home at all right now, the most practical alternative becomes interactive online lessons instead.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ONLINE LESSONS

Whilst schools continue their own kind of online learning, many families have found they lack the live, interactive accountability required to keep them disciplined. As parents reported last lockdown, their children had a hard time getting motivated and back in the routine once the schools reopened. To keep your child’s momentum through the next 6 weeks, your usual tutor will continue at their usual time on the usual day(s) – only using Skype, Zoom or our own more sophisticated platform called Learn Space. In fact, if you like, lessons can even be recorded and sent to you to keep you more up-to-date with what they’re working on each week until face-to-face lessons resume.

WHAT YOU CAN DO THIS WEEK

– Expect a call from your TOTC tutor this week. When they call, let them know you’ve read this announcement from HQ.
– To keep lessons personally tailored, have a chat with them about which online platform, resources and strategies your child is already most familiar with, to make sure they provide user friendly lessons with minimal hurdles and maximum impact.

STUART’S ADVICE TO PARENTS

The content they cover each class is up to you, your child and their TOTC tutor. However, we recommend it worth using this time to focus more heavily on planning, time management and organisational skills. The most negative impact on young students during this time is that they regress without the extrinsic motivation that the school routine provides. They get used to getting the same reward for less effort, less accountability and less monitoring. They get used to no one watching to see when they did what’s required, how much effort they put in nor be able to enforce much of a consequence. As such it becomes too easy to fly under the radar. The upside is that the lockdowns have seen a surge in the student populations creative expression skills, with the downside being it’s because there’s more opportunity for excuse making to flourish than for personal responsibility.

By comparison when you and I went to school, organisational skills have changed – in some ways good, some ways bad. The good is the ease of accessibility when it comes to user friendly digital resources. Short of a paper diary or wall planner, our options were limited. But this generation of students have a variety of apps at their fingertips to collaborate, plan ahead and self-reflect to keep every moment accounted for and every task clear and simple. The bad is that they’re so easy they’re taken for granted, and rarely utilised as well as they could be.

They’re going to be utilising electronic tools for learning anyway, at a time that they can benefit more than ever. So our suggestion is that, seeing as they’re going to get more screen time and depend on their smartphones, tablets or computers more anyway – why not make it work for them by integrating time management into their lessons. As we’ve already learned from last time, the most important skills that will set students apart when school resumes, will not just be their literacy and numeracy, but their ability to stay disciplined, stay organised and stay strong in their self-management skills.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

When you contact your TOTC tutor about continuing lessons as usual only online instead, ask their advice about including the skills and resources outlined in the above paragraphs. Depending on your child’s upcoming assessments and the progress they’ve made already this term, your TOTC tutor can give you some feedback and suggestions whilst asking for any you have as well.

If you have not done so already, the next few weeks might also be a good time to sit down with your child to playfully explore some self-management tools they can use. If they have a smart phone or tablet for example, maybe have a browse around the App Store / Play Store to download and experiment with some simple starters like Google’s versions (Tasks / Calendar / Keep etc ) Microsoft (To Do / Planner / Teams etc) or similar versions (here at HQ we couldn’t get by without Todoist, AnyList and Asana to name a few). Depending on their age, skill and existing familiarity – we suggest starting off simple but to stimulate interest, be playful and just use trial and error to muck around with different features just so they feel like continuing to explore without feeling it tedious.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR CHILDREN BE SELF-DIRECTED

The bad news is, you can’t. The good news is, they can.

The irony about learning to be independent, self-directed and autonomous is that it can’t be forced. You can make kids learn maths and literacy but you can’t make them be self-disciplined. Otherwise it’s not self-anything. In fact, trying to ‘make’ them do things, learn things and remember things can often make them so reliant on extrinsically motivation, they can’t seem to get themselves into gear without pushing, prodding or punishment. So unless you were planning to pushing them around in a pram their whole life, don’t end up hindering whilst trying to help.

This is one of the hardest parts for parents, with Mums and Dads both contributing different parts of the problems cause, whilst being able to contribute different parts of the problems solution.

The first thing to understand about how to help your child learn independence to take the initiative and more ownership over their own learning, is not through explanation. At least, not as well as it would if the explanation comes in response to the learner asking. After all, if they want to know then they’ll be more likely to not only remember and take it on board to satisfy curiosity, but also more likely to put it into practice. So a great goal to achieve with them is to get them curious enough to start asking you how you stay on top of things and how you learned to do it without any classes on subjects on “organisational skills 101.”

DO AS I DO

Why not share with them some of the resources you use, or even explore some new ones yourself whilst they see you showing curious interest in learning some more yourself. In fact, why not add some tasks to your calendar to share or sync with theirs and vice versa. So they can see you add tasks and then tick off your own ‘to do’ list for them, whilst setting tasks for them to mark off which you see on your device as well.

My son’s added some tasks he wants me to do on our shared projects and I’ve done the same for him. It became easier to do this collaboratively after telling him that we’ve all become a bit behind in the self-drive department, and that I could use some external push too. I asked him if he could help remind and keep track of my progress, making me more accountable to someone else that I know I’ll have to report back to honestly at the end of each day. It’s not only made him feel less motivated to get away with not doing the same, but more comfortable about doing what I’m doing myself. (Also, it’s strangely motivating to know you’ve got to be accountable when reporting back to your own child, as there’s something to be said for having to taste your own medicine and live what you preach).

So model to them what you want them to learn too. If you’re already an A grade start performer in the field of self management you want them to improve, then show them your willingness to step out of your comfort zone to learn something you’re as resistant to as they are. If you’re already good at those things and expect them to push past the vulnerability they’re at which you’re not, then don’t be surprised if they avoid it like the plague and instead just stick with their existing strengths.

LET’S DO THIS TOGETHER

Most of the the decisions we made and acted on as we grew, were not driven by the knowledge we learned but the behaviours and attitudes we learned. Unless you remember scoring full marks in your many years of “behaviours and attitude ” subject classes, you might notice w didn’t learn them by being told by a teacher. Which means however we learned them must have been even more influential than all our teachers and text books combined.

Likewise, of all the things we did and effort we’d put into every day life, only so much was motivated by what someone told us to do. After all, how much motivation does your child have to spend all day on their phone or game console playing or chatting with friends? Yet who told them to do that? In fact, even when you try telling them not to they do just the same (sometimes more). That takes some pretty powerful motivation right there. Imagine harnessing that only directed to school work instead.

Young humans are motivated by one simple yet powerful intrinsic drive; to develop our identity through connection with the world around us. More simply put, we learn who we are by knowing where we belong.

In primary school, the teacher can scream rules and hand out punishments until blue in the face. But the number one thing which determines each child’s classroom behaviour comes down to what the other kids are doing. If they walk late into the room where every student is quiet and focused on work, they might be disruptive. But probably not. If they walk into the room where everyones shouting and throwing paper planes around the room, they might be quietly studious. But probably not.

In high school, we learned who we are by where we fit in. The music, the fashion, the teams the habits and lingo we learn about where in the playgrounds food chain we belonged would drive the intrinsic motivation we’d have to determine just about everything we did outside of the classroom. Our academics and study habits rubbed off from the friends we hung out with more than the teachers we had.

Telling people to do as the authority figure tells them works better as adults following their bosses instructions at work. But to the brain of a child and especially adolescent, if they seem not to be listening when you explain how important it is and in their best interests – don’t be surprised. If you want them to really listen, remember that “We do this together” speaks much louder to a young learners brain than what “Do as I tell you” sounds to their ears. Yes, they’ll copy and model you, but even “Do as I do” might not work unless they feel trust that “We do this together”. It’s how they learn to feel who’s “on their side” and which shared activities represent being on that side.

THE SIMPLE KEY TO TAKING OWNERSHIP OF ONES LEARNING

Imagine how much more, faster and better they’d learn what they’re taught if they wanted to know. So start with just enough to get them interested, share your own experience so we’ll do it together.  The aim is then to stimulate enough curiosity that they want to know more. They’ll need you to share something just vulnerable enough to lower their guard by lowering yours so they’re not too intimidated to ask more. And to trust that they can ask without your response making them regret doing so, they need to know you care enough to mean what you say by putting yourself on the line as much as you want them to do too.

That paragraph by the way was what I wrote down in response to asking myself the question, “How can I best encourage our parents in Melbourne to respond to this emails invitation to call up for advice about how they can help their kids develop the independence they’ll need the student population to gain during this time of widespread learned helplessness.”

Oh sorry, did you think that I was talking about how you can help your children learn to help themselves do that stuff? No I was just thinking out loud about how I could help you learn to help your children learn that stuff.

Okay so maybe that was also for a bit of amusement.

But in all seriousness – did you notice the effect it had when you suddenly realised what it might look like from outside your perspective whilst you were otherwise wishing they’d see things outside theirs? It feels like you wished they’d realise how much benefit they could gain if they just asked rather than stubbornly thinking they know it all or being too scared to put their hand up.

Well. Other than the mandatory personal conversation I’ll be having with each of my Victorian employees this week, here’s the other part of our plan to support our families in Melbourne.

I can make our Victorian tutors talk to me cause I’m their boss and we pay them as employees of the company. But we can’t make you put your hand up to ask for help with your learning. There’s likely some or perhaps lot’s you might benefit if you called just the same. Though short of the words laid out above here in this email, all I can do now is to invite you to call if you’d like some more personally relevant advice.

Start with your TOTC tutor of course, but if it helps – please know that if any of our clients south of the border would like to, I’ll take the time to have a chat with them personally. Given the state of economic emergency we’re in and it’s impact on our industry and business especially, the more flexible you can be to be available at potentially strange hours at night, the more likely and faster I’ll have a remaining time to talk. In the mean time however, remember that even if I’m busy coaching tutors, all of Pamela’s admin assistants who take calls here at HQ are not only experienced TOTC Tutors, but the best of the best (which is how they got promoted to be able to work alongside Pamela in person.)

Pamela’s Deputy Principal Anne is here most days (except Monday) whilst her assistants Maurya (Monday and Tuesday) or Abi (Thursday and Friday) can assist you as well.

We hope this helps but remember – we might be tired, busy and stretched to our limits right now. But if you’re willing to put up your hand and brave asking for advice, we’ll make sure we do whatever is necessary to ensure the time and effort to provide the most personalised support within our power.

Stay safe, focused and proactive. Most importantly, prepare to repair and rebuild as the economic toll taken by the “What can’t I do” way of thinking of the young population afflicted as the second wave of helplessness spreads. The best chance we have is to remind those we’re responsible for, to not get so distracted about the extrinsic rules telling us what we can’t do that they forget what they can.

What we can.

Together.

About Stuart Adams

Stuart Adams is the founder and Managing Director of TOTC. He is a former School Teacher and Careers Advisor as well as a qualified Dietitian and Psychotherapist. His Psychotherapist Sydney website has loads of free learning resources covering all areas of mental health.

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