Success breeds success

The Age article, Repeating grades ‘fails’ students, discusses the results of recent studies conducted by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Two of the main conclusions drawn were:

  • kids who are made to repeat grades perform poorly again the second time around
  • students who switch schools because of poor academic performance do worse in their new environment.

While the news article concentrates on the first finding, I’d like to focus on the second.

The OECD suggests that when poorly performing students change schools, the new ones they attend often host a larger portion of kids of similar academic ability.  As such, they are less likely to benefit from the influence of higher-achieving peers and positive role models.

This points to the fact that a positive learning environment, in which all children are striving for success, produces improved results. Herein lies one of the major benefits of Edworks.

The Edworks’ environment is a key factor in the substantial improvements we see in our students’ results. These benefits were also identified in Assoc. Prof. Munro’s findings in 2006 when he undertook a national study for the Federal Government Literacy Intervention (see below).

In line with Edworks’ practices, he advocates that while each child’s program should be individualised, the social context in which it is offered needs to allow for support and encouragement not only from teachers, but from fellow students as well.

In such scenarios, students find role models in other students — they are inspired by the successes of others. With many striving for the same goals, children not only get the best out of themselves, but out of each other. In this environment, as at Edworks, success breeds success.







My Family by Julia


Laughter, tears, anger, love: such are the emotions that make up my family. Happy times and sad times, we’ve been though it all together. Together we’re wonderful; with one member absent it would not make any sense.

I know that both my parents sacrifice many things for me, from time to money. After hours of tiring work, they have no time to rest; and they pick me up from school and take me to the other side of the city for an activity every week. They never complain; never a word, though they do often mention about me getting a driver’s licence in the near future. The day I got the horrible flu, I couldn’t take a step out of my bed; it was also a special day for my mum. One of her work friends was retiring. I told her to go and farewell him, but my mum refused and made me thick, hot pumpkin soup. The soup somehow seemed to taste better than usual; made with love. My dad also sacrificed his only holiday by staying at home with my dog to send me and my mum to Japan. He said he was fine, but I knew somewhere deep inside he was disappointed. I love him for his unselfishness.

When our dog, Rocky, died in 2006, we cried for hours and hours. The next day we were able to collect ourselves, smile and wish him the best. He was a Boxer. He did look a little scary, but was kind and caring. His fur was prickly, coloured in different shades of brown. He was recognisable by his white socks on his front feet and a perfect diamond shaped mark on the back of his neck. He was like a big brother to me, he was a great influence in my life. Rocky taught me to love and care or animals. Happy times, he would come and cheer me up, he often snatched all of my lollies and have me chase him around. In sad times he would watch me through the window, with a worried expression. It seemed that I could talk to him sometimes, when I felt lonely, he was my treasure. He was our precious family member. Over 15 years living with my parents we know each other from the bottom of our hearts.

My family follows the Japanese culture. When I was little, they imported a huge, heavy, handmade doll collection from Japan. This was to be displayed in our house for a few weeks in June for girl’s day. Six dolls in perfect condition for over 15 years. Each one hand made by professionals. Layers of special clothes on the doll, the princess wearing the bright red kimono, and the prince wearing the royal blue hakama. Eyes, lips, and many details had been carefully hand drawn onto the dolls. Each year my dad carefully wraps them and packs them away until next year. These dolls are supposed to be with me till I get married.

My parents send me to Japan for me to celebrate Christmas and new year’s with my family in Japan. My mum, dad and I have not spent Christmas together for many years because they have to stay in Australia for work.

They cook me traditional Japanese food and celebrate festivals with me every year. My favourite Japanese food is the sushi. Though I don’t eat seafood, I especially love the ones my dad makes for me with avocado and carrot. The rice with a little bit of vinegar soaked in and the delicious fresh vegetables are a great match, it is my favourite.

We do argue. Then I have to listen to my mum’s lectures, but I know that it’s because she cares about me. My family has taught me right from wrong. Everyday we’ll be laughing at something stupid. My family delivers smiles and happiness to me every day and everywhere. We are a family; we will support and love each other no matter what … forever. I hope this close relationship between us will pass on to the future generations.

Animal Cruelty by Erika

Being offended by the use of animal fur as clothing is not an overreaction. We should understand that most Western countries treat dogs as one of their beloved family members. Dogs, like all other animals, are living things. Humans, depending on their culture, can treat dogs in very different ways. In Australia, we cuddle them, however in China, they eat them.

Within the Chinese culture, people eat a wide variety of animals and insects which many countries may find offensive. On the other hand, Western societies eat animals, such as cows, in burgers, in spaghetti bolognese or as steak. This could equally offend countries like India, where the cow is revered as a holy animal. Australians have no right to say that the Chinese should not eat dogs when we, ourselves, eat our own national symbol, the kangaroo.

In Australia, we slaughter animals in a humane way, unlike in China, where many animals suffer unnecessarily. The Chinese skin dogs alive, causing them to suffer. The fur-based products are then labeled incorrectly by Chinese industries, where they place labels indicating the fur is from rabbits, when it is derived from dogs. The result
is  that consumers may misunderstand what they are buying. I am certain that if they were forced to label the fur correctly, not many Australians would want to purchase these items. In fact, if the products were labelled correctly, I am sure the importation of clothes with dog fur into Australia would stop entirely, because most Australians treat their dog as part of their family. No one would want to think that these animals have died a cruel and unnecessary death just to make a collar for a coat.

We should be aware that dogs and other animals do not deserve to be slaughtered inhumanely. We do not have the right say what people may or may not eat, but we have the right to blame them for skinning and torturing animals, and mislabeling products.


Education policies — what are we thinking?

Those who read this article, published in The Age recently, could be excused for feeling disenchanted with our country’s policy makers. Evidently, copying the failed systems of the US and UK has seen the gap between our best and worst performing students widen.

Meanwhile, Finland, with a lower percentage increase in expenditure over the past 10 years, has its students performing to a far higher standard overall. Unsurprisingly, they also boast a more consistent spread of high performing schools and better qualified teachers.

The question then must be asked — if we are copying countries’ policies, why are we not aiming to emulate those with proven records of success? Have a look at the world education rankings from the OECD (below) and consider where Australia is placed in relation to Finland, the US and the UK. Surely we have to look beyond our old political and economic allies if we are to ‘move forward’.

Moreover, some may ask why we are copying other countries’ policies at all. It seems while the government is happy to hold schools accountable via NAPLAN testing, it assumes no real accountability for the status of our education system itself. Should we not be critiquing our current policies and innovating better systems?

As a parent who is directly involved in the issue, what are your thoughts? What do you see as the path to improvement?


Tiny’s Adventures by Livia


Once, at the zoo, a baby elephant went for an adventure at night. He wanted to see his friends. First, Tiny went to the giraffe’s home. The elephant said, ‘Let’s play chasey?’

‘OK!’ said the giraffe.

The two had a fun time playing together. But the elephant had to go as he had more fun waiting for him. He said goodbye and left.

And Tiny then saw the platypus’ house, so he went in the house of Pip the Platypus.

‘Hi, Pip!’


‘I want to play SPLASH with you.’

‘Okay, let’s go splash!’

The two ran around in the mud and jumped in and out of lots of muddy puddles and pools of water.

‘Oh, no! I have to go! Goodbye, Pip!’ said Tiny.

As Tiny left he looked down and saw that he was covered in thick mud from head to toe.

‘Now I have to go and have a shower … and I know just the place!’ said the baby elephant.

Responsibility. Recognition. Rewards.

You may have seen the article, ‘Rough play is good for children’ in the Herald Sun recently. In summary, it suggests over-protective teachers are robbing children of opportunities to develop important life skills.

The fact is, teachers are placed under growing pressure from parents to ‘bubble-wrap’ kids. The result? Kids’ life experiences are greatly diminished.

As a psychologist, I believe we can foster success in children by encouraging them to take risks and accept the consequences of their actions, both positive and negative. Schools, therefore, must afford students the opportunity to take measured risks in the playground.

It’s all about giving children control, and putting them behind the ‘steering wheel’ of life. Just as kids need to experience the rewards of hard work, they need to experience how to cope with failure, criticism and rejection. It is through such experiences that they will develop and grow into mature, independent adults with a complete repertoire of life skills and experiences to draw upon.

As a parent, consider whether you provide your child with an environment in which they are encouraged to take risks.When was the last time you:

  • Made an excuse for your child not completing a project or homework?
  • Made an excuse for your child being late or away from school?
  • Intervened in a problem that s/he should have solved?
  • Let your child justify his/her actions to a friend, an adult or a teacher?
  • Encouraged your child to partake in something where success was not guaranteed?

The next time you feel the urge to jump in and take control, think of the long-term benefits that life experiences will provide.

The Great Escape by Joe


Evanlyn woke to a gentle hand. She looked up, knowing what was going to happen next. She saw Will’s dark brown eyes and handsome face. ”It’s time to go”, Will said softly. He had been up most of the night preparing their escape. “I stole some bread and butter and three casks of water. It should last us through the journey.” He yawned softly. He had been up a majority of the night destroying all except one of the boats. Inside the shack she heard a Skandian cough. If he woke the others they would surely be doomed. They launched the boat, took one last look at their island prison, and then they were gone.

Halt was watching Horace fight with curiosity. He truly was a spectacular swordsman. He watched him disarm and concuss yet another thug. Halt walked over and took the thug’s helmet off. He was rather ugly, with his black eye and blood nose. ”Death or life?” Halt asked the thug. “Life please! I have a family! I swear I will not do it again. Please!”

“Fine. But if I hear of you again there will be no choice”, Halt said with a dangerous tone.

“Thankyou. You truly are a kind man, I…”

“Shut it!” shouted Halt.

“Sorry, sorry.”

As Halt and Horace left the pleading man behind, they once again continued on their quest to find their friends.

Will lay back, relieved. They had made it out of the perilous summer current and heading straight to Celtica. Evanlyn was trying to adjust the angle of their tiny boat. Will guessed they would strike land by midday the next day. From here they would travel to their homeland, Araluen.

Halt thought they could take a shortcut through the frozen sea. They would stop off at a tiny refuge island called Halloshom. Halloshom was a barren place, with only two buildings and a handful of trees. But it was always well stocked with food. They were running low on provisions anyway. They soon found a little dock, where they got on a small dinghy boat. They set sail, not knowing their best friends were heading straight for them.

The first sign of trouble appeared only a few moments before it came. Will could see vague traces of red in the water, and there was smoke in the sky. Evanlyn, being a commoner, didn’t notice the differences. Will’s keen rangers eyes could see even the most intricate features. It was not long until they saw the pirate ship loom over the small merchant ship and begin to board them. Will, being Will, immediately rowed right up to the two ships. He climbed aboard the merchant ship and attacked one of the pirates viciously with his dagger. Another pirate latched on to Will, but then an arrow protruded from the pirate’s chest. Will looked up, surprised. He looked in the direction the arrow came from, and there, in the smoke was Halt.

NYC Animals by Heather


New York! What a city!! Burgers, fries, soda, candy, cool and crazy people and animals!! We’ve moved into an apartment in Upper Manhattan, sharing with some locals. Everyone lives in apartments, drinks coffee and walks their dog around the streets and parks. People love their dogs here!

The weather is hot and humid and the lush, green parks are a relief from the heat. On really hot days the fire hydrants are turned on and huge jets of water explode over the pavement and streets for people to run under to cool off. The local children love it!

We’ve seen some cute and not so cute animals here. Squirrels are common in parks and are constantly running up and down trees searching for food, all day long. We’ve also spied a family of raccoons in central park, cute but apparently aggressive, so we kept our distance! The not so cute animals are the local rats! In train stations, on the pavement, outside our apartment!! They’re everywhere! I thought one was a squirrel, it was that big! Maybe they head to New York for the summer! Luckily, I’m not terrified of rats like some of my friends!

We don’t have a dog in our apartment, however we have a beautiful, fluffy cat with a personality like ‘Sylvester the Cat’ (naughty!). She’s lovely when her owner’s around and when he’s away her claws come out to play! The owner never sees, so he doesn’t believe it! She definitely should have been called Sylvester!

Hope you’re keeping warm in Australia!

Best wishes,