Friday, 20 June 2008

What's High Hopes all about?

Ever wondered 'what if'?

I guess at some time (perhaps more than one time!) during our personal and professional lives we might ask ourselves this question. Whether or not we act on it is another thing. My 'what if' (and it wasn't the first) came upon me in 2006.

I was teaching at the time, but on this particular night I was part of a parent/student audience listening to a session on study skills for Year 10 students, along with my Year 10 son. While I was listening to the presenter, it came to me - the 'seed' was planted! The question I asked myself was "Why is there no information out there like this for primary school parents and students?" I was in the midst of a two year 'block' on a Year 5 and 6 class for gifted and talented students - very 'full on'! I realised that, whilst I had been busy teaching and preparing these kids for high school, they would not be as ready as they could, or should, be for the entirely new 'experience' of high school. They had never sat for exams in the formal sense, had never had to develop study skills, had been in the care of ONE teacher for every year of their school life to date, and probably had no idea of what they were about to face the following year! For students AND parents, this transition is a quantam leap!

I pushed the idea to the back of my mind, as I was already well and truly occupied with my class and had not the slightest intention of following through on what I guessed may have been a 'whim' . However, as the year progressed, my health deteriorated and I was forced to take the final term of the year off...time for 'what if'?

I contacted the presenter of the study skills session I had attended and asked if she conducted sessions for primary school students and parents - 'no' was the answer, but she recognised a real need. Her training and area of expertise was high school so she didn't feel experienced enough to tackle primary school-related issues. Before getting too excited, I decided to undertake a thorough search for any programs which might even vaguely resemble what I had in mind. There didn't appear to be anything out there.

OK - decision time. Once my health improved, would I return to teaching and a guaranteed income, or take a chance and start a business? When you are earning a pretty good income it's a tough call - particularly when, like everyone else, there's a mortgage to pay off and two teenage sons to support. Fortunately I have a very understanding husband, who understood how important it was for me to try this out and who has always known me to be one to push my boundaries - so it was on!

I formed my company, High Hopes Educational Sevices, and packaged my initial transition to high school program for parents and students (covering issues of balance between work and play, time management and organisational skills and positive attitude). I had a meeting with Professor Tony Vinson, who had just spent several months investigating transition issues in over 400 NSW primary and secondary schools, to see if I was 'on song' with my initiative. He was so encouraging and supportive - so I decided to 'go for it'. I ran my first session in November, 2006 and used this as a sounding board for subsequent sessions. I was absolutely overwhelmed with the positive response to that first session, with parents coming to me afterwards and asking "Why hasn't someone thought of this before?"

Since that first session, I have researched and read everything I can get my hands on regarding the middle years of schooling and have responded to parent requests for additional information on a variety of topics - including how we learn, how we can help our kids develop effective work routines, how to prioritise workloads, how to stay on top of homework etc - all 'garden variety' issues that worry parents and students.

At the end of the day, my company is all about finding out what makes us all tick as individuals and how to achieve whatever our personal and academic goals might be - without tearing our hair out! As a parent, I know how important it is to hear information that makes sense to me - I don't want to be overwhelmed with jargon and impossible targets. Practical, common sense and realistic tips are the focus of ALL my programs - whether I am talking to parents, students or teachers. We all want the best for our kids and we want them to want the best for themselves - give them as many chances as they need so that, in their future, they can ask their own 'what ifs'!

About Author:

Angie Wilcock is a highly regarded expert and speaker on transitions in education. She works with teachers, parents and students across Australia.

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