Education should never JUST be about grades, but the reality of it is that my students are in a system that is very unforgiving for students who don’t perform well. So here’s my solution: I take my cue from my own teachers, the brilliant people whom I’ve had the absolute privilege to be taught by. They taught me the skills I needed to pass my examinations, but they also taught me about life.
Some of my teachers were a little bit peculiar, a little bit strange, but they tended to be the ones who really made a difference. There was that Physics teacher who would occasionally talk about the power of prayer, and to include the non-praying students among us, he would also talk about how having a quiet moment (while other people were praying) worked wonders to calm the mind. Now that I’m a teacher myself, I recognise that he was teaching us to tap into the power of a mind that remains calm in the face of pressure. There was that PE teacher who would talk (or scream) about the need for determination in every facet of our lives. Most of this was done while we were in the push-up position, or running like dying children round and round the track, but it’s definitely a lesson that stuck.
I could go on and on, but I think my point is pretty clear — those teachers were teaching me about lessons that were almost completely unrelated to their teaching subjects (Physics or PE), but those lessons were useful both for school and life. I’m certain that having access to techniques to calm the mind down before an exam (or even while studying) raised my grades. I’m certain that determination is one of the key attributes of a successful student.
So my own approach to my students is this: I will teach the things they need for their grades (want to do well at comprehension? Then comprehend!), but I will also not ignore the needs of the human being. If a student needs some coaching to calm the mind, or to get over some other roadblock, I will do that.
At times it may seem like I am “wasting” time by working on things that only have a tangential relationship to the work of doing well for the exams. But I’m confident that this approach works. In some ways, I’m only doing the same things that the best of my teachers did.