FAQs( Frequently Asked Questions)
Q1 : My son realises that he will need to travel to and from school and to other venues on his own. How do I help him?
A1 : Some boys may take a longer time to build confidence taking public transport but it is not too early to start him out in Secondary One. He may be accompanied by an adult or older sibling/friend during the first trip to explore and be familiar with the route. He should be allowed to attempt subsequent trips on his own or with his peers. Advise him to check bus/MRT routes which are easily available at bus/MRT stations or online.
Q2 : My son has several after school activities such as tuition, music lessons, etc. At the same time he will need to fulfil school-mandated CCA, excursions, mass school events such as Sports Day and Swim Meet. How should he learn to prioritise his time and make informed decisions?
A2 : CCA, school camps, Sports Day, Cross-Country and all other school activities help to build each child socially, emotionally, psychologically and even physically. Missing these activities will deny him the opportunity to be part of the larger community. Students are advised that these school activities/events are mandatory and should take precedence over personal activities. They are advised to make alternative arrangements in the event that these activities clash with school mandated ones.
Q3 : My son will eventually be bringing his own device (BYOD) for school work but my fear is that it will be the start to gaming and other online ills. What is the school's advice on the home front?
A3: Research has shown how brain development regresses and even halts when excessive 'screen time' is allowed. (Michael Gurian, Leonard Sax)
Clear boundaries and expectations must be established from the outset with regard to the use of gadgets such as notebooks, ipads, smartphones, Xbox/PS4, etc. It is important to talk through and discuss these issues with your son. On the home front, there must be a basic principle of balance when it comes to play, study, use of devices and leisure.
These devices are tools for learning to provide that extra avenue to prepare them for the world beyond SJI but should not control their lives. If boundaries and expectations are not established, the consequences can be dire.
Q4 : I fear my son will be bullied. What should I do if he is a victim of bully?
A4: Teach your son how to be more observant and sensitive to his environment and of people around him. This is an important skill. Teach him to be aware of peers who are more influential. He must learn to stand up for himself when his more influential peers step out of line. Do be mindful of any behavioral changes in your son and always encourage him to talk about school-related matters and his friends. Communicate with him and should a case of bullying be established, inform his form/subject tutor.
Discourage him from creating Facebook/Twitter friends. Boys at a young age usually do not know how to react when they are bullied. The use of Facebook/Twitter and other such social media should only be used when the boys are deemed more responsible.
Q5 : My son is not good with humanities and sometimes English. What are the strategies available to help him?
A5: Reading from print and non-print materials is the key to knowledge. Our brains need input from books to develop imagination and spatial awareness. Reading, as research has shown, is best for brain development. Brain synapses and neurons grow and link exponentially with reading. On the other hand, gaming and exposure to unnecessary screen time, as brain scans have shown, cause the deterioration of synapses and neuron linkages that will lead to poor cognition and understanding. This can in turn affect motivation and finally behavioral and learning disabilities. Hence, it is important to regulate screen time and boost reading habits. Developing a lifelong reading habit will help to build the foundation for other 21st century skills.
Q6 : My son seems to lack motivation and does not want to speak to anyone about it. Is this something for the school counsellor to manage?
A6 : From our years of managing boys who lack motivation, we observe that it is a stage they reach at secondary school due to several factors:
i. they have just come out of the highly intensive Primary School Leaving Examination. They have put in time and energy in their preparation, leaving little time for leisure or other social activities. They are physically and mentally exhausted!
ii. puberty and hormonal changes. They want that space to discover and find their own identity.
Counsellors will not make much headway if they are not supported. It is important to establish a home environment to ensure he has time and space to balance school work, play, CCA, and social activities. This is where they learn better by emulating others and discovering what suits them. Invite his friends over to your home. Allow him to replace screen time with some outdoor activities of his preference. He needs your support and guidance. Ground rules may sound archaic but he requires them. He needs you to be somewhere near but not breathing down his neck.
Q7 : My son spends too much time on the Internet, smartphone, and TV. How do I explain to him that everything should be done in moderation?
A7 : All the above are classified as screen time. Unregulated screen time will lead to brain development imbalances, causing possible behavioral and learning issues. As parents, take a firm stand to set boundaries and expectations. Work them through together with your son and explain the rationale. They must also understand the consequences of overstepping these boundaries. The whole premise is to develop self-regulation.
Q8 : My son seems to be less motivated and very reclusive and disinterested in his work. What strategies can I use to motivate him?
A8 : Learning strategies such as mind mapping, note taking, visual depictions to summarise daily school work are baseline strategies to ensure that rote learning and repetitive drilling are not repeated. These are non-sustainable strategies and have shown not to work with an increase from four to six to eight subjects at secondary school.
He must be able to work out a time management schedule and set specific targets and goals. Encourage him to plan a work schedule, close gaps in understanding and make linkages with other topics and subjects. Research also shows that visual learning strategies work well with them.
To address motivation issues, we should find ways to boost his reading capacity. Increased reading leads to better understanding of the world around us. Humanities and English subjects are beneficiaries of good reading capacities and habits.
The next step towards successful reading capacity and habit is to read not just widely but deeply into areas and topics that firstly interest them and then leading to topics that have wide links to other subjects and areas.
Q 9: My son is poor in mathematics and this was not the case in primary school. What should he work on to ensure he does not fall behind in class?
A 9: The most important topic in Mathematics in secondary school is Algebra. Students must dedicate time and energy working on the laws of Algebra such as laws of indices, etc. This is an investment worth putting in at lower secondary level. From our data, boys who don’t have a good grasp of Algebra start to lose motivation and confidence when topics get progressively more complex and demand application. They lose interest when success is difficult to attain.
Start consistent work and revision on Algebra especially in the initial months of Secondary One. A sound foundation is crucial.
Q 10: Is group study and collaboration advisable for boosting learning?
A 10: One of the best and proven learning strategies is when students collaborate for learning. Collaborative or group learning also benefits each member when the participants take charge of 'teaching' each other what they have learnt, reinforcing their own(teacher) learning and at the same time allowing the receiver (learner/listener) to establish their learning and links in their brain. In fact, it is the 'teacher' who has been proven to learn and internalise more. So it makes perfect sense to be the one teaching and learning, taking turns to do so and raising the wealth of knowledge as compared to self-study.
Q 11: The boys will need to access information and download learning resources sent by their teachers online. How do I ensure that my son does not take advantage of this to overstay his time on the computer, leading to excessive screen time?
A 11: Building the right structures for self-direction and self-regulation is crucial. This can only happen when boundaries are set. External parties or functions such as parents, time-limiting software and even ensuring that the work station is in full view of parents also help in monitoring the use of the computer. Screen time for games is permissible but it is recommended not to go beyond a stretch of 2 hours a day.
Set aside specific times of the day for checking and replying emails. Family discussion/ meal / outing times should be dedicated time without the presence of devices.
Q 12: Other than academic rigour which should be maintained via realistic and well-paced targets set, what other aspects should I help my son develop?
A 12: Once self-regulation and self-direction is established, he must be aware that he does not exist by himself and for himself. He must start making headway into how best to help the people around him and have the initiative to do beyond what is asked for, for others. This must not be for keeping score but rather for developing the intrinsic motivation to be self-driven to develop himself and then moving on to motivate or even working with others to help others.
At SJI, we hope to develop boys into young men who are contributing members at home, school and society. We value character more than anything else. Start small. Start with reminding him to clear up after his meals at food courts or even at home. Encourage him to do housework and give up his seat to others who need it more. Greet his elders, teachers, parents and even develop that sincere habit of shaking hands when meeting his friends and peers.
Respect begets respect. When he respects himself, he will to learn how to love himself and soon learn how to love others. He must be commended, praised and acknowledged for his good habits. Make it known to him explicitly that respect is something that society values. Practice, practice and practice!
Q 13: My son may not strive for student leadership positions in school as he may be shy or sees himself not worthy. How should I encourage him? What do I do when he tries but fails to attain it?
A 13: All if not most boys strive internally to be seen and take on leadership positions. They want to be noticed and acknowledged. This explains why many boys or students take to computer games that lead to standings and rankings. They want to be ranked the best. Many a time, because of the lack of confidence to take up student leadership positions or fear of failure in securing them, they retreat to the virtual world. In SJI, there are many opportunities to take on various student leadership positions.
First and foremost, they must be boys with successful strategies for self-direction and self-regulation. They have to be sincere and be motivated to help others and the community. If they embody the spirit of innovation and are willing to adapt to change and be change agents, they will be easily noticed by their peers.
Staff have a keen eye for recognising leadership potential in students. Boys may make the first move by volunteering at class, CCA, and school events. Developing self-regulation and fulfilling our SJI vision of being Men for Others would be what our boys should strive for. Target setting, drawing up action plans and along the way finding meaning in their endeavors should be the hallmarks of successful student leaders and young men ready for the future.
As parents, we can encourage them to take on leadership positions. However, not all boys will be selected. Managing expectations and coping with rejection are also hallmarks in developing character. Managing failure and resetting targets will help to build character.