From the Deputy Principal

This week, Mr. Brennan is attending a meeting of the Australian and Pacific Salesian Principals Association (APSPA) in Cambodia. The Salesians operate a number of sorely needed schools, training centres and technical facilities in various parts of Cambodia including Phnom Penh, Battambang, Sihanoukville, Poipet and the Siem Reap region. In addition to discussing APSPA business, Mr. Brennan will have the opportunity to visit a number of these Salesian works and to develop ideas as to how we here at Salesian College, Chadstone might be able to assist in the future.

In Mr. Brennan’s absence, and with the College gearing up for the Semester One exams, I would like to offer some thoughts about homework and tutoring.

One of the areas that, as a staff, we have been working on this term is revisiting our Homework Policy. In addition to consideration by our teachers, homework was the focus of discussion by members of the Parents Association and by our student leaders at the recent Student Congress. Within the next week or two, our new Homework Policy will be ready to be distributed to all members of the College community.

In the course of discussing homework with students, it has become apparent that the practices of some private tutors are, in some instances, proving to be counterproductive.

A considerable number of boys are reporting that they are finding it difficult to finish homework tasks set by Salesian teachers due to the need to attend tutoring sessions and/or to complete exercises set by their teachers. It is a concern that, for a significant minority of boys, after-school and weekend tutorials have been normalised to the extent that some students are prioritising tutoring over College homework commitments. It is a real worry if a boy can’t engage in family activities, or, if he finds it difficult to play sport, go to church, complete his school homework or engage in healthy recreational activities because of a perceived need to go to tutoring.

Obviously, it is a parent’s prerogative to engage a tutor if they so wish. It is certainly the case, too, that the right tutor can complement school education when they instill confidence in the student and work in partnership with schools.

It is important, however, to proceed cautiously when considering whether or not to engage a tutor. Sometimes, tutoring can cause more problems than it solves. Students can rely too heavily on their tutors to assist them with assignments and in preparing for tests and exams. Consequently, boys can be lulled into a false sense of security which only dawns on them when, suddenly alone in the exam hall, they realise they cannot complete a particular task on their own.

Furthermore, some ‘tutors’ operate by teaching ahead of what they presume to be the school’s program in the context of what is, in essence, an extra class consisting of 10 – 20 students. There is little, if any, genuine tuition here. These environments can be problematic in that they, almost inevitably, promotes a certain measure of conflict: the teacher at school conventionally sets homework with the aim of consolidating a particular skill or concept whilst the tutor has moved on ahead to focus on a completely different and unrelated area. In these cases, the school and the tutor are working at cross purposes. Confusion results.

One of the purposes in introducing the Student Led Conferences was to place the student at the centre of his own learning with a view to boys exercising greater responsible for their progress. Tutoring, generally prescriptive in nature, can impinge on a boy’s ability to do this.  Whilst well-intentioned, tutoring can actually promote passivity in our boys, thus compromising the development of resilience and independence.

Most tutors are undoubtedly decent people. Not all, though, are expert teachers. Many are not teachers at all and, whilst being well-intended, may not have the necessary skills bases to assist students. Confidence is a precious commodity and a couple of ill-conceived tutoring sessions delivered by a university student or an un-credentialed adult can cause significant damage.

It’s important to know that our job here at Salesian College is to ensure your boy’s educational needs are met in line with the curriculum. We are not perfect and we will, on occasions, miss things and sometimes we will get things wrong. If you have a concern that your son may be falling behind or missing out on something here at school, please discuss it first with his teacher(s) so that we can assist. This, together with a well-structured home environment, may provide the best framework for parents and teachers to work in collaboration to help our boys.

If you do decide to exercise your perfect right to engage a tutor, please take into consideration the College’s view that tutors:

  • Need to add confidence and work in partnership with the College
  • Should be warm, empathetic, mature and experts in their subjects
  • Should build confidence in students so they trust their own skills.

If you would like to make any comments or suggestions concerning either tutoring or homework, please send an email to ncarter@salesian.vic.edu.au or call me at the College on 9807 2644.

I would like to conclude by wishing all boys every success in the second half of the term.  I hope that they are knuckling down to their studies and preparing well for their coming examinations.

God bless.

Neil Carter 
Deputy Principal