Working harder makes you smarter….
‘You only get out of life what you put in.’ That is the mantra that I was brought up with as child throughout the 1980s. Fast forward thirty years and I feel that I am now instilling the same values to both of my sons. It does feel, however, that it is so much more of a challenge with Play Stations, mobile phones and football to compete against my values and messages.
The trouble is, as the examination system in England changes, students will need to work harder than ever to be successful. Now that coursework has almost entirely been removed from reformed GCSEs, examinations are becoming increasingly important and pressurised. Subject content is increasingly challenging. Retakes will become a memory only. It will feel like it felt for me in the 1990s when final examinations meant everything. The problem is that students today have never had to train their brains to memorise things because, increasingly, their mobile phone is their memory.
With mock examinations taking place for Y11 students this fortnight, the question must be how can students embed their learning into their long term memory. The answer clearly is through genuine graft – relentlessly reviewing what they have learnt so they can recall it at will. While I still feel as excited about life as I did twenty years ago, to any teenager I look like a middle-aged man going on and on! If, however, instead of telling students to spend more hours working, you explain they have control over their brains and that they can change their attitude to work because they can change their mindset, you might just see them begin to work harder. It is perhaps time for our students to view intelligence as something which can be developed and that they can get better at things with effort…we can grow our brains!!
For example, research into the brains of London cab drivers demonstrates clearly that when they are learning ‘The Knowledge’, certain parts of their brain grow significantly. When London cabbies retire, that same part of the brain which had to recall the streets of London so readily, shrinks.
As the new GCSEs become increasingly challenging, we must convince our students that you only get out of life what you put in – we just need to consider how we phrase this idea. I would like to suggest the statement, ‘working harder makes you smarter’. As new GCSEs become increasingly challenging, we must convince our students that there is no substitute for hard work!