How Not To Be Wrong!

Can you remember a time when you asked the question, why do I need to learn this? How is this going to help me in the future? This subject is boring and how is this going to get me into a future career?

Let me bring some perspective to the questions often raised by students. In 1962, three African-American women were recruited into the NASA program to assist the NASA scientists. They were mathematicians. The US in 1962 was still a place where segregation between white and black people was common with prejudice and discrimination deeply ingrained in the psyche of the American people. Katherine Johnson was one of the mathematicians who calculated the exact trajectory for astronaut John Glenn to return safely following three orbits of the earth in space. These three women were able to break down the stereotypes of women in mathematics, women scientists in the space agency and equity regardless of skin colour, religion or gender.

Our learning in the classroom sometimes may not make sense, may not seem relevant, may not seem enjoyable or may not seem challenging. However, the learning we engage in, is the product of a well-designed national curriculum and our teachers are well-trained to provide the very best possible experience and exposure to a world-class education which prepares students for pathways beyond school.

Earlier this year we celebrated the success of our 2017 Year 12 graduates with 99% SACE completion and well over 1/3 of students achieving an ATAR over 90. I will guarantee that none of our graduates would have remembered those moments when learning seems irrelevant or disconnected. Their persistence and efforts contributed to their success.

Sometimes learning does not connect but sticking with tasks and doing your very best will contribute to developing your mind and your capacity for thinking! It will help you to solve problems, analyse data and not to be wrong!

Katherine Johnson could not afford to be wrong! If John Glenn did not return safely this would have been a disaster for the African-American people and women. In the future our students may well be in the same position, whether they are servicing the brakes on a car, making a diagnosis on cancer treatment or whether they are providing advice on financial investments.

Last Friday, we celebrated the success of our students who achieved straight A’s for their academic endeavour. This is what we ask all students to strive for, inspired to be at their very best and never giving up.

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, a secondary co-educational school in the southern region of Adelaide with a total of 900 students and 120 staff. Marcellin Technical College is a campus of Cardijn College. It provides students in Years 11 and 12 with SACE, training and apprenticeships. It has an enrolment of over 120 students and 30 staff. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

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