Sail Your Way To Exam Success – How To Make Your Boat Go Faster

By Carrie Burke

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We’re nearing the end of the grammar school open days and evenings and the children have finally got to see where- if they get the grades- they could study for their secondary school years. Visiting the schools has motivated the children that I tutor to no end, but as we all know the momentum towards our goals can be hard to maintain.


Recently,I read a book about setting goals. The author tells the story of Team GB men’s Eights rowing team from the late 90’s and early 2000s. They kept just missing a qualifying place by finishing seventh in every competition (if they’d placed sixth, they would have got a qualifying place). After some deliberation, they decided that not only were they going to surpass their goal to get into the top six, but they were going to ‘go for gold’ at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Some would be retiring after this world class competition and this was their last chance to achieve the highest accolade in their sport.


They immediately went into competition mode which meant focusing on their goal to the detriment of everything else. Beforehand, this intense training would have started two months prior to the competition- now it was starting two years before. This meant for twenty-four months they had one goal and one goal only- whatever the team did there was only one question in mind, “Will it make the boat go faster?”


Go out for a curry on Friday night and drink five pints of beer? Will it make the boat go faster? No. Not doing it.


It’s 5am on a freezing Sunday in February and I’m so tired- shall I give it a miss? Will it make the boat go faster if I do miss training? Nope. I’m going in.


Having a focus on this goal meant that the team did win the gold, because the Eights rowers knew their one thing, their one goal.


Now, I’m not advocating that children become obsessed with the exams for two years and focus solely on this goal, but the story shows the power of having goals and a desire to achieve them.


With less than three months to go to the exams, I’m going to share this story with my children and spend some time with them to create their own milestones to help them reach their goals. Children have immense inner wisdom, they know their strengths and weakness, and I trust that they know what will help them make their boat go faster!


There are about twenty questions that I use to bring goal-setting to life for children, and they really enjoy the experience. It gives them ownership of their learning and honours their individual experience as a learner. If your child is sitting the exams this academic year, why not ask them to explore some of the questions below:


ü What do I want? (Is it phrased positively, e.g. “I want to pass the Loreto exam”, not “I don’t want to fail”?)


ü What is important about my goal? (What is important about it now, in the future?)


ü Who’s involved in helping me reach my goals? What do you need to ask them to do?


ü How will I know I have got my goal? What will I see, hear and feel?


ü What will I now have to do differently to reach my goal?


ü What tools/ resources do I have that will enable me to get to my goal?


ü What would happen if I got what I wanted? Am I 100% certain this is what I want?


ü When will I have achieved my goal?


ü Looking back from then, what was the first thing I did, and when did I do it?


In fact, why not try them yourself- who wouldn’t want their boat to go faster?

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