The presenter had spent the afternoon with the kids, motivating them to commit to success. They thought he was cool. They all loved him... he was clear about that. Hey, he'd had a DJ provide a funky soundtrack to the advice he was giving and the tasks he'd had the kids do. And heck gee, one of the activities was a 'selfie-challenge', so it was clear to us parents that this guy was hip to the way to get 17 and 18-year-olds to detach themselves from their devices, forget about their social lives, and dedicate themselves to study, revision and more study for the next eight months.
I tried to remain positive and open-minded as I collected my A4 booklet and pencil. I really did. I'm pretty sure I was smiling while I avoided eye contact with everyone else to prevent my cynicism from leaking out in a snarky comment or a snarly facial expression. I even went and sat on an aisle seat, just a few rows from the front. Close enough to have to participate. But when I opened the booklet to browse through what was in store for me, it all went to shit. Every second sentence had empty spaces for us to fill in... you know, to make sure we were paying attention.
And there were five pages headed Positive Process Praise. Five pages. Two of them chock-full of fill-the-gap sentences like: You were very ...... when you ...(action taken). Hat's off to you!' Gosh, I do love a good apostrophe error in a printed hand-out from an expert on how to help students succeed. And Hat's off to you! is a spiffing little one-liner to make any almost-adult feel sufficiently proud of themselves to keep their chins up and soldier on through the sludge.
One key sentence confused me a little (I knew it was key because it was in red): Lavishly praise the strategy. The only strategy I could lavishly praise in my resident Year 12 student is avoidance strategy. He's genius at that. Apparently, I should say something like (please fill the gap as you see appropriate): You used your ........ to get around that. Very good!
Disappointingly, we didn't get the DJ. We got a PowerPoint presentation with slides so heavy on the text that even when every person in the audience had reached into their pocket/handbag/briefcase for their glasses, nobody could read them. Which didn't really matter. Because he read them to us. Well, that's not exactly true. He didn't read all of them. Some of them he flipped through at breakneck speed because he'd devoted so much time to his extremely fascinating and relevant anecdotes about how his techniques had proven invaluable in turning around his 6-year-old daughter's attitude to maths and about how he'd become a vegetarian and how he'd given up a career as an accountant in a prestigious firm to become an expert in motivation, that he didn't have time to fit in the stuff about how you actually manage to motivate a near-adult who's been so regularly battered and demoralised by the schooling system that he is paralysed by fear of failure.
But we did get to turn to the person beside us and tell them they had lovely eyes. And we did get to flap our booklets over our heads to prove we weren't writing on them. And best of all, we got to do lots of 'Repeat after me...'.
Apparently, my Year 12 student will get extraordinary results if I feed him a healthy meal at 6:00 pm every night. And if said six-foot-one son should arrive home hungry after a day at school, soccer at lunchtime and the walk from the bus stop, I should allow him a glass of water and a handful of nuts and dried fruits or carrot sticks served with a tablespoon of tzatziki and tell him to wait till dinner. I'm quite happy about that. It means we won't run out of bread or milk or peanut butter nearly so often.
He is, however, going to be using more than his fair share of the household's available drinking water in order to keep up with his specified 2.75 litres to help wash down both heaped platefuls of leafy greens every day before popping off to bed for his 9.2 hours of sleep. If he should have trouble dropping off, I'm to put on a dim light in his bedroom and provide him with a cup of warm milk. I've been assured he will nod off in no time. Who knew?
Other realistic and helpful advice about how to help my man-child be motivated to succeed in his final year of secondary school included:
- take his phone away from him as soon as he arrives home from school
- prevent him from having contact with any of his peers who are not top scholars
- disallow any and all gaming.
Last but certainly not least, to ensure that he studies in a premium state of relaxed alertness and increase his recall performance by a guaranteed minimum of 25 per cent, he is, of course, to listen to string orchestras performing baroque pieces in largo tempo.
But he won't be able to download it to listen via Bluetooth from his phone, because I will have taken that away from him.
So there you have it. Parenting strategies for teenage success.
A little bit.
But I did get my name ticked off the roll.
** I have it from a reliable source that none of these simple fixes were presented to the accompaniment of a funky beat at the student session. Can't imagine why not.