Superficial Aspects of Professionalism – The Little Things That Make Big Differences

By Stuart Adams from Top of the Class Professional Tutoring Sydney.

When you’re using the internet to search for something, chances are you’ll scan briefly through the short summarised search results first before deciding which ones to click on to explore in more depth. We do this because it would be too time consuming and laborious to thoroughly analyse every single result in depth.


Likewise, we tend to judge a person by the superficial things we see on the surface before deciding whether they are worth looking deeper into. Consider then that there are two layers of your professionalism that are equally important.


Yes, the outside or ‘superficial’ layer does not really indicate a true reflection of who you are. Those ’surface layer’ attributes however must be adequately impressive through the eyes of the clients so that they then feel comfortable enough to take a deeper look. Consider this the ‘foreplay’ of your professionalism.


So what are the superficial aspects of your professionalism? Some of these things are obvious, however some things that are too obvious are the things that are overlooked to the person preparing to display them. So consider it this way:


When you go to strike a golf ball, if your slice is merely a few millimetres off at the point the club hits the ball, the difference it will make by the time the ball lands might be many metres; enough metres to either win or lose a game. Consider that small, seemingly insignificant things in the present moment can have a big impact down the line where the end result matters.


The superficial aspects of professionalism describes below are some of those ‘little things’ that can make a big difference in the eyes of the client – especially in their first impressions. Their first impressions of you will not only carry over and affect the way they continue to see you; it will affect their decision whether to continue with you as their child’s tutor. These little things are:


Punctuality:  Make sure that you are punctual – even a couple of minutes early if possible. Remember that many of our clients lead very busy, very stressful lives. They have very tight schedules and can become easily distressed when something in their schedule stuffs up their timing. Every minute of their time is important to them, so it is important that they feel that you respect their time. The best way in which the client will interpret your respect for their time will be indicated by your punctuality. If you can’t make a lesson or you’re running late, apologise sincerely by way of phone call, not SMS or email.


Touch Base: Because of the busy and stressful schedule many of our clients have, we ask that you ‘touch base’ with them approximately 2 hours before your lesson is due to commence. For this you can send a quick SMS. For example “Hi (client), see you at 5pm for (child’s) lesson.  Cheers, (tutor).” You can word the message as you wish of course. The point is that even though this may take as little as 30 seconds for you to do, it can subtly suggest big things about your professionalism and the respect you are showing for the clients time.


Appearance:  If you take pride in your appearance and enjoy the feel of being well groomed and well dressed, then this job will be right for you. What is the dress code for a professional tutor? Imagine you were working as a teacher in a private school. That should give you a good idea.


Never Show Up Empty Handed: The clients interpretation of your professionalism will be affected by how prepared you appear. Even if you are mentally prepared, it is important to look prepared. One of the most common complaints that clients make when giving feedback about tutors is when they show up empty handed. Even if the tutor is well prepared, little things such as carrying a laptop bag in one hand, a couple of pens and pencils in the top pocket and some text books are strong unconscious indicators of professional preparation. Think of it like a doctor who walks around checking on patients wearing a stethoscope around their neck, even if they have no intention of using it – it just makes the doctor look more like what the patients expects a doctor to look like.


State of Mind: As discussed in the previous chapter, the state of mind you are carrying with you will be seen just as clearly as your laptop bag, the time you arrive and the way you are dressed when the client opens the door. Appearing confident, enthusiastic and approachable will not just be beneficial for your sake, it will affect the way the client views your professionalism at the unconscious level.


Consulting with the Client: Imagine your GP referred you to a specialist for a condition you are deeply worried about. The specialist told you to show up for surgery, the surgery was performed, and your GP was given a letter explaining that everything was okay. The job may have been completed, but wouldn’t you feel much more comfortable about the specialists professionalism if they took the time to meet you for a consultation and explain everything to you personally before and after the procedure?


Even though you may be there to teach the client’s son or daughter, the parents still like being kept in the loop. Taking a few minutes at the beginning and especially at the end of each lesson to chat about their child’s progress is the perfect opportunity where you can demonstrate the deeper, less superficial aspects of your professionalism.  So long as all the superficial aspects of your professionalism have satisfied the client’s expectations, this is where you get to dig a little deeper, down to the stuff that really matters most!

This article was part of the Tutor Jobs Sydney training resource guide for training tutors. Additional information on professionalism can be found at the Top of the Class Tuition Sydney website.

State of Mind – The Most Important Part of a Teachers Preparation

by Stuart Adams from Top of the Class Professional Tuition Sydney.

Have you ever started a sports training session without a warmup? And why is the warmup so important anyway? With physical activity, muscles may be cold and need to warm up to be more flexible and less prone to injury. Activities involving mental training are no different.

Remember that by the time you begin a class, lecture or any other kind of coaching session, there is a good chance that the people you are aiming to motivate might be feeling stressed, lethargic, and in no mood to learn. Consequently, the first thing you should aim to do is promote a positive state of mind to ‘warm up’ your students or audience. To do this, you must first be mentally warmed up yourself.

State Of Mind Is Contageous

Remember that state of mind is contagious. If you walk into a negative environment unprepared, any negativity already circulating around your students may rub off onto you. It is important therefore that you ‘infect’ those around you with positivity instead. For this, you must be in a positive state of mind yourself. Specifically, the best state of mind for a teacher is to be confident, enthusiastic and approachable.

This is easy to say of course, but what if you’ve had a bad day too? If you’re not already in a good mood, how do you just snap yourself into a confident, enthusiastic and approachable character?

How To Prepare For A Positive State Of Mind

For starters, the more prepared you are, the more confident you will be. Preparation is the first ingredient in any recipe for confidence. Once you are well prepared and know what you’re doing however, there are some simple psychological techniques you can use to alter your state of mind.

Use The Past To Your Present Advantage

After you’ve finished reading this description, close your eyes and think about a time where you were feeling full of energy, happy, enthusiastic about what you were doing and hopeful about the future. It may be a recent occasion or it may be from your childhood. Either way, take a moment to visualise specifically, what you could see at that time. Focus on the faces of people around you, the scenery, the colours – as clear as you can.

Listen to what you could hear. Were there voices, music or background noises?Remember what you could feel. Was it cold, cool, hot or warm? Were you sitting, standing or moving? Imagine feeling the ground underneath you, chair underneath you, or whatever was touching against you at the time.

Depending on what was happening during the event you are reliving in your memory, there may also be smells or tastes that you can recall. Either way, close your eyes and spend at least 30 seconds slowly bringing back all the sights, sounds and feelings (including emotions) that you were experiencing during that memory until eventually, it feels as though you are reliving it.

Relax… take as long as you need to do this, and once you feel like you’re there again, hold onto the specific emotions that were flowing through you in that moment. When you’re ready, open your eyes and, still holding onto that feeling, you should now be a lot closer to that state of mind than what you were as little as one minute before hand.

The best time to do this might be a couple of minutes before you start your lesson.

Holding Onto A Positive State Of Mind

Although these ‘reliving the moment’ techniques might adjust your state of mind temporarily, it is easy to loose that state once confronted with a situation you are not feeling confident about. After all, you have just drawn on past memories for your present state of mind, but how can we use that to affect the way the immediate future plays out? This is where you may find imagination techniques to be particularly useful.

Imagination Techniques

Once you have attained the right state of mind, as you hold onto those memories and those feelings, imagine watching yourself having a fantastic lesson. Imagine the look of inspiration on the face of your students. Imagine the look of appreciation on the faces and in the voices of the parents talking about how inspiring you are to the other parents. Imagine your sense of satisfaction as you are finishing the lesson and everything has gone just as you planned.

If you mentally and emotionally rehearse having the perfect lesson, you are much more likely to live it out. As Albert Einstain famously said: Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

What Is Imagination?

Imagine you could program your unconscious mind according to the way it must think to achieve a desired outcome. Based on this understanding, it would appear that your unconscious mind can be ‘accessed’ by consciously controlling your imagination. The unconscious mind doesn’t seem to be good at determining the difference between reality and imagination. You might as well take advantage of it then, not just for creating enthusiasm, confidence and approachability for your students, but for every aspect of your life.

Imagination: Not Just For Children

Many of the most successful people report imagining their success happening before they actually attempt any certain task. If this sounds silly, consider a famous study where college students were divided into different groups’ after testing their accuracy of shooting basketball hoops.

One group was instructed to practice shooting hoops for half an hour every day, whilst another group was told not to do anything physically, but just use their imagination and visualise shooting hoops for the same amount of time. A third group was told to do real practice for 15 minutes, and imaginative practice for 15 minutes, whilst a fourth group did no practice at all (control). At the end of the study, the control group made the least improvement, the group who only did physical (real) practice improved the next best. The group who did imaginary practise improved the second most, whilst the group who had done both real and imaginary practice showed the greatest improvements.

The lesson here is; never underestimate the power of our imagination to make things real. Chances are, by the time you intervene; your students have already spent emotional energy imagining their failure, which as you now know means certain disaster unless that changes. Whenever you’re feeling uncertain or lacking confidence about something, use your imagination to mentally and emotionally rehearse it going well first.


As a teacher, trainer, sydney tutor, coach or anyone charged with the responsibility of facilitating learning and motivating for change, remember that the state of mind you bring to the game will have the biggest impact on the state of those you are aiming to change. Considering that mental ‘warm up’ exercises don’t need to involve sweating, burning calories, physical discomfort, resources or expense and can be done easily and freely all in your mind; it might be worthwhile considering investing a bit of time in training your memory and imagination. It will have a significant impact not only on you, but those around you.

For more information see Tutoring Jobs Sydney or Top of the Class Tutors Sydney.

An Easy Way To Know Which School Is Best For Your Child

By Stuart Adams: Dad, Teacher, Careers Advisor, P&C President and Director of Top of the Class Tutoring Sydney.

If you have a child that is about to start a new school (whether it be primary school or high school) the task of deciding which school is best can be very worrying. Many parents are content to send their child to whichever school is closest. That’s fine, but we all know what impact our schooling lives has on the direction we take in life, so yes; it is a big deal, and it’s okay to be a bit stressed over it. It just means that you want the best for your child, as every parent should.

Whilst it is common for parents to want to know which school is best for their son or daughter, it is very difficult to know for sure what a school is like when you’re on the outside of it. Even if you went to that school yourself when you were younger, schools can change enormously over time.

To know which school is best for your child, the first question you need to answer is this: what is it that you’re looking for in a school exactly? To go even deeper, what is it you’re looking for in a child?  Hang on – did he just say what is it you’re looking for in a child?

If that just gave your nervous system a bit of a jolt, then good. As protective and caring parents, we want to do more than just protect our child, we want to mould them. Chances are, we want to influence their surroundings so that it will influence them, and in the process, mould them to be the way we want them to be. We like the idea of designing our children’s lives. Not so that we can create ‘designer kids’ as though they were fashion accessories either (although I’m sure you know of parents who think like that).  We know the world is a harsh place, where survival is tough and there’s a lot of bad influences. We want to strengthen our children’s foundation so that once they are all grown up and off on their own in this harsh world, they will have what it takes to lead happy, successful and fulfilling lives.

Whilst I’m sure that we can all agree about wanting to influence our children’s environment and know which school is best to provide them with a happy and fulfilling future, the way in which that is done best is perhaps the fork in the road where parents might disagree. So this is where I am going to ask you to think very carefully about what attributes you feel make for a happy and fulfilling future, when deciding which school is best.

You may believe that getting high marks and a good ATRAR is the magical recipe for a happy life. Your child must after all get into the RIGHT university course, otherwise they might as well go jump off the gap right? Whilst no parent in their right mind would actually agree with this last statement, the reason I worded it so harshly is because if you put too much pressure on your son or your daughter to get into the ‘right’ university course, the unconscious message that a vulnerable and insecure young mind will perceive is actually not too dissimilar to the exaggerated version I just worded. Never being able to live up to mummy or daddy’s expectations, no matter what degree or career path you take, will ever result in a happy fulfilling life.  Moreover, the ‘never quite good enough’ mentality will only spill over onto your grandchildren, great grandchildren and become a never-ending cycle. I see it a lot. No one ever looks back on their life and feels content knowing that they contaminated their children with the ‘never quite good enough’ virus. Remember that.

Having said all this, university entrance is important. Achieving the best one can achieve is also important. Having the right environment is very important. So what makes for the ‘right’ environment then? Is the right environment one where the kids wear ties and have strict discipline? Is it where they have a bigger lap pool than the ‘competing’ schools? Is it having the right quantitative statistics to ‘prove’ their success? Is it the one that the other parents will be jealous of when they hear about it down at the tennis club?

Well, if appearances and superficiality is what you value (and therefore want to inject into your children’s personality) then yes. Whilst I could be wrong, I don’t personally believe that superficiality is an important ingredient when putting together a recipe for a happy life. In fact, to me, it only steers a person around in circles chasing after a goal that will never bring them what they’re really searching for. But that’s just me.

In fact, I can’t tell you what attributes you should or should not be looking for to mould in your child. That’s up to you. Just remember that the culture of the school will ‘rub off’ on those who attend it. So whatever personality characteristics you want to mould in your child, look for a school where those same personality characteristics are present in the people there. That won’t be found on a website. It won’t be found in graphs or numbers. It won’t be found in a sales pitch, a uniform, a school motto or the number of trophies displayed in the admin office either.

My personal belief is that a good school is made up of good teachers and good students. A good school is therefore good because of the people who go there. The goodness of a person can never be determined by something that can be calculated or printed on a piece of paper either. It’s something that must be experienced.

The ideal situation would be to send your child to a few different schools, observe what goes on for a few days, and make your decision that way. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. If you want to know about what a ‘people’ are like without being able to interact with those people much, then remember the golden rule of the behaviours of human culture; followers are like their leaders.

If you want to know what the teachers and kids are like at a school, observe the principal and the parents. Observe the way they communicate. Observe their body language, their tone of voice, their facial expressions, the things they talk about and the way they talk about them. Observing the unconscious communication of the leaders in any group will give you big clues about what everyone else is like.

The best way to observe this communication of course is to attend the schools P&C meetings. Attending the schools P&C committee meetings can give you opportunities to ask questions of the schools leaders and observe their reactions. Then compare those reactions between the different schools. It won’t tell you with 100% certainty which school is best, but it will give you an ‘insider’ insight that won’t be gained any other way.

Once again, I can’t tell you what you should be looking for when you make these observations – that’s up to you. Whatever you’re looking for in a school (and in a child) however, then attending a few P&C meetings is probably the best strategy for finding out which school is best for meeting your personal criteria.

For more advice, tips, resources and assistance for parents, see Top of the Class Home Tuition Sydney

How To Fix People – A Step By Step Guide for Reconditioning a Human Being

By Stuart Adams from Top of the Class Home Tutoring Sydney

You know how a lot of guys like repairing engines and other mechanical devices as a hobby? Apparently some people just need to ‘fix’ something. Well over the past year or so I’ve developed the hobby of fixing people. In fact, I’ve become obsessed with it, and in the process have become quite good at it too. People around me are often wondering how I am doing it. Well there are a few little secrets I’m not going to reveal, but for the most part, I have disclosed a step by step guide below that can be replicated by anyone, especially parents, teachers, coaches and tutors. Happy fixing!

Fight or Flight

During early human existence, staying alive long enough to reach adulthood meant having to avoid threats such as wild animals and other dangers which modern man no longer needs to worry about. As a survival mechanism, the primitive brain developed an instinctive programing system to alert us when to trigger our defence mode into action (sometimes referred to as ‘fight or flight’ mode).This mechanism was developed by the subconscious mind, which records all experiences and links emotions to their memory. When we experience something which makes us feel threatened at a young age, our subconscious defence system links anything associated with this memory as a threat. Then next time we encounter something our subconscious mind associates with that past experience, it’s protective instinct tries to drive us away from it by triggering the defence mode into action in preparation for ‘fight or flight’. (This occurs even if the conscious mind has no memory of the original experience.) The emotional effect (anxiety) strongly draws us away from that particular trigger on future occasions, even if our concscious mind no longer sees it as a threat. In psychology, this effect is known as ‘aversive conditioning’. The body also responds by affecting the way the brain functions. This is why during times of anxiety (fear, pressure, stress, trauma, etc.) it becomes difficult to stay calm, think clearly and store clear memories.

The Modern Impact of a Primitive Defence System

Although this defence system was great for keeping our early ancestors away from harm, the evolutionary hangover effect it has left modern man with is not so helpful. The ‘fight or flight’ system originally designed to protect us from threats, is actually the cause of anxiety which impairs us from achieving greater success in life. Rather than dangerous predators, the modern day child is likely to link the ‘threat’ response to experiences which create a feeling of failure, shame or extreme powerlessness. These feelings may occur during experiences we would obviously consider traumatic (such as abuse or neglect) however may also occur in less obvious situations such as struggling to understand school work or being exposed to excessive criticism or bullying. . As a result, it is common for children to develop mild aversive conditioning to triggers such as maths, literacy, public speaking, sporting activities, social interaction, confrontation, etc.

The reaction may not be as obvious or severe (such as panic attacks) as aversions to more traumatic experiences (such as abuse or neglect) though they do cause enough anxiety to impair the childs ability to face those situations with confidence in the future. The emotional response pulls us away from that particular task, making it difficult to feel motivated towards it. This becomes a cyclical effect, described in our article on the emotional impact on learning.

The impact this has on school work and learning is generally not as severe as panic attacks, but is often manifested at the lower end of the scale such as irritability, difficulty staying focused and poor motivation. The subconscious begins to pull the mind away from the task at hand, and instead pull it towards the direction it has been conditioned to feel better about. We see this in school students all the time, when they find it difficult to stay focused on their homework for example, and instead feel drawn towards distractions such as watching television, playing games, playing with their phone or getting distracted by social media (depending on their age).

Confidence Creates Passion, Passion Drives Motivation

The good news is however that this effect can be reversed. The same part of the mind which links negative associations with experiences perceived as threatening can also link positive associations with experiences perceived as empowering. This is how we develop likes, interests, hobbies and passions. In fact, there is a direct link between how much a young person feels empowered by something and how much they feel passionate towards it. As explained in the previous article; once a person develops passion towards something, their motivation automatically drives them strongly towards it. The key to directing our children towards success in any given area therefore becomes a question of how we can get them to overcome negative threatening associations (ie fear) and create positive empowering associations (ie confidence) instead. The answer lies in shifting their beliefs.

The ‘Pull Away’ or ‘Pull Towards’ Effect is Guided by Subconscious Beliefs

The difference between whether we approach something with absolute terror or absolute confidence all depends on our beliefs about it. If we believe we are bad at it, we therefore believe we are likely to fail at it. Our mind’s natural reaction is to pull us away from that task to protect us from experiencing the effects of failure (disappointment, shame, criticism etc.) which past experiences have caused us to link as a ‘threat’. The ‘pull away’ effect impairs our motivation towards that task whenever we approach it in the future.

Just as magnetic attraction and repulsion acts as an invisible force we can’t see, this psychological effect can seem a bit invisible to us as well, as it is being guided by our subconscious mind. This means that we may not even consciously realise why we are having difficulty motivating ourselves towards that particular task. We may not consciously believe we are going to fail, or have any memory of the past experiences which have lead us to establish that subconscious belief. In fact, as we grow older and become more familiar with the process of reasoning, the conscious reasoning a person uses to explain their own behaviour towards the subconsscious ‘threat’ may in fact be very misguided. In other words they may not even realise the real force which is guiding their actions. (This is the minds defence mechanism to protect us from the experience of pain which would occur if we became aware of things we are not ready to face.)

The important clue here is that it is our subconscious mind which either pulls us away or pulls us towards something. This means that it’s our subconscious beliefs which determine the direction of that pull. Even if we hold a conscious belief, we must program the subconscious to believe it as well in order to adjust the ‘pull away’ or ‘pull towards’ effect in the direction we want to go. The difficulty in overcoming this is that we may not be consciously aware of what our subconscious believes are, making it very difficult to do it on our own. It becomes much more effective with the assistance of someone who understands the process and knows how to positively affect it. In changing a persons beliefs about something, we must first understand how those beliefs are formed; especially at the subconscious level.

Beliefs Form in Response to our Experiences

At the conscious level where we can apply logical reasoning, our beliefs about something can be shaped simply by the way we think about it. The subconscious mind however does not reason like an adult. It is much more primitive and functions by linking emotional associations. For this reason, it may be helpful to think of the conscious mind as the adult mind, and the subconscious as the ‘inner child’.

At the subconscious level, our beliefs about something are most powerfully formed following our experiences with it. Most importantly, it is not just our experiences which form our beliefs, but how we perceive or interpret those experiences. It is the emotional meanings that our perceptions place on those experiences which are especially important (i.e., was it was a bad, threatening experience or was it a good, empowering experience?)

For example; have you ever been in a situation where two or more people observe the same thing, yet one person’s views towards it were very negative, whereas the other persons may be very positive? Can you think of an example of a good experience you had recently with something you would have perceived much more negatively in the past (or vice versa)? Why is it that even when the situation is the same, the perceived experienced can change?

Understanding how to change a person’s perception or interpretation of their experiences plays a large role in affecting the beliefs the subconscious mind forms about it. When it comes to changing the subconscious ‘pull away’ into to a ‘pull towards’ response, the aim is to change the perception of the experience from something which feels threatening to something which feels empowering instead. How can we do this?

The Power of Focus

A large part of this process has to do with adjusting what the person focuses on. Try the following exercise to give you a better idea of how focus affects our perceptions.

When you have finished reading this sentance, spend five seconds looking around the room you are in whilst trying to identify and memorise as many objects that you see which are brown. (Do this now).

Now that your eyes have returned towards the computer screen, answer the following question: name all the objects you saw around the room that were red. Once you have done this, read the following instruction:

Now do the exact same thing for five seconds after the end of this sentance, only this time look for all the objects around the room that are red. (Do this now).

So how many objects can you recall this time that were red? Although this may differ depending on the room you are in at the time, it is likely that you found more red items the second time you looked around the room compared to the first time. Why? Were there more red items in the room the second time? No. The difference between both times you did this was not what was actually around you in the room, but what you were focusing on.

We See Most What We Look For Most

The ideal way to change a person’s subconscious beliefs is by controlling their experiences to create an empowering outcome. Whilst this approach is discussed in more detail further on, you probably realise that there is a limit to how much control we can have over our children’s experiences. What we have far more control over however is the way in which they interpret the experiences they have.

There are potentially good and potentially bad aspects to most experiences, depending on how we look at it. (Just as there are both red and brown objects in most rooms). The exercise above demonstrates how we tend to see most what we look for most. Whilst that exercise applied to visual observation of coloured objects, the same effect applies when it comes to how we emotionally interperet our experiences. The best leverage we have on affecting the experiences which determine our children’s beliefs therefore is in how we can get them to look at it by redirecting their focus. The question then becomes, how do we shift their focus and what do we shift their focus towards instead?

Shifting Focus

In our article about the emotional impact on learning, part of the fear cycle described states that:

This negative attitude will affect how they perceive anything to do with X. For example, even if they do better the next time they attempt X, the child is less likely to notice their progress and instead focus on their failings or other negative aspects about X. (This psychological effect is similar to the ‘placebo effect’ in reverse). By this stage the child has become especially sensitive to criticism about X, and is likely respond poorly to praise even when they do well at X.

Despite the experiences which caused the initial negative belief to be formed, it is the continued focus on faults, failings and other disempowering experiences which drive that belief with momentum to continue. Poor marks, mistakes, criticism and humiliation take the foreground of focus, just as brown objects in the room did in the exercise above. During these times however, it is entirely likely that the child is still making some progress which goes unnoticed. They are likely to be times they gain new understandings just as there are likely to be times they performed better than expected. Just as the red objects in the room however, these potentially empowering experiences tend to go unnoticed and blur into the background, overshadowed by the observation of disempowering experiences instead. If we want to transform our children’s fear into confidence, we must shift their focus in the direction of experiences the subconscious mind will interpret as empowering. In the presence of obvious success, the next best empowering thing to focus on is progress.

Connecting the Dots in a Clear, Upwards Direction

Progress tends to happen in bits and pieces like random dots on a page. For the progress to become clearly focused on in the mind of the student, those dots must be joined to create a clearer overall picture, otherwise they become lost and blured into the background. Most importantly, those dots need to be joined to create a picture much like a staircase, gradually climbing upward. When the student’s conceptualisation of their progress becomes focused clearly on a an upward direction, it creates an empowering feeling towards approaching future tasks with confidence.

The Progress Has to be Real

Trying to focus on progress and positive outcomes to develop the subconscious belief that “I am good at this” has its limitations however. In order to focus on progressive experiences, there needs to be real progress. Let’s say for example, you were trying to build your child’s confidence in running, but in each race they ran consistently slower and slower. No matter how hard you try to guide their focus on something positive, it becomes difficult if it is quite obvious to the child that there is no progress. For this reason, it becomes important that we exercise control over the situation to ensure that the child really is having a consistently good outcome by creating real progress to focus on. The most important part of this process involves strategic goal setting.

Goals Can Make or Break the Direction of Progress

Goal setting is important at any age or level of success, and is an important strategy used by leaders in the workforce as well. Goal setting can help us create real progress whilst directing focus on connecting the dots in an upwards direction. If goals are not set, then the progress may occur incidentally and go unnoticed. If the goals are set too high, the person will fall short, focus on their failings and interpret the experience as disempowering.

Say for example you achieved 3 goals after you put effort into a particular task. Would you be proud of that outcome of would you view that as a failure? The answer is that it depends on the goals you originally set. If you set 6 goals, you are likely to see this as a poor outcome which will dampen your motivation. If however you set 2 goals originally (and believed that achieving these goals actually represent success to you) then you are likely to see this as a raging success which will probably fire up your motivation instead. This fired up motivation is likely to burn out of fuel however if it is not conditioned through consistent repetition. To do this, we must understand how to break goals down into smaller portions so they can be achieved with regular consistency.

Progress Must Be Regular

It is crucially important that empoweing experiences occur frequently so that the ‘staircase’ of progress becomes focused on so strongly and consistently that it slowly filters down into the subconscious mind to change the belief and reverse its emotional conditioning.This means the person needs to be focused on the goals they are achieving on a regular basis. Long term goals therefore will not provide this effect. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes people make when setting goals is that their goals are set too far into the future or loosley defined. For example; “I want to lose weight and be slim” is a much more poorely defined goal than “I want to lose 5 kilos in the next 2 months”. Even then, losing 5 kilos over 2 months requires motivation every day, not just today and the day 2 months from now. That motivation must come from regular progress by achieving goals consistently. Goals therefore become more frequrntly achievable when they are broken up into Aims and Objectives. Objectives are smaller, quantifiable goals that progressively build on each other. When the objectives are all combined, they achieve an overall aim.

Goals: Aims vs Objectives

Imagine you are in the stairwell of a ten story building, and want to reach the top of the building. There may be 20 stairs which lead up to the next story, then another 20 stairs to the second story and so on. If your goal is to reach the top, you could break it down by aiming to reach one story at a time. To break it down even further, you could reach each story at a time by taking one stair at a time. Using this analogy, each story represents an aim, whilst each step represents an objective. Even if you fall or have to stop every now and then, you will be far more focused on your progress by being aware of how many stairs and stories you have already climbed. Moreover, the trip to the top no longer seems so unreachable when you know that all you need to do is keep doing what you’re already doing – climbing stairs.

Being slim might be your overall goal, whilst loosing 5 kilos in the next 2 months may be your first aim. You will still have to achieve numerous objectives along the way to reach this aim however. This may include spending 30 minutes exercising at lunch time today, replacing your chicken drumsticks with chicken breast at dinner tonight, making an appointment with the Dietitian tomorrow, as well as numerous other objectives every single day for the next 2 months to achieve that aim.

Break, Reverse, Drive!

Ensuring that the student’s progress becomes more consistent through achieving objectives and aims is the first part of the reconditioning process. Creating new and clearly visible progress is like slamming the breaks on the fear cycle until it has come to a halt. Reconditioning the subconscious mind to start the cycle moving in the opposite direction however requires emotional drive and empowering momentum to keep it moving. So once the progress starts to build, it is important to link strong empowering feelings towards that progress to continue with a new cycle of confidence.

Positive Reinforcement

One of the powers which the subconscious mind has over us is that the way we feel about ourselves subconsciously is largely determined by the way we perceive others to feel about us. When we approach something we have little confidence in, the feedback we receive from those around us becomes especially crucial in determining whether we become more or less confident about it. The more we look up to the person giving the feedback, the more impact it will have on us. This is true at any age, but especially during childhood and adolescence, and especially when it relates to something we are insecure about.

It therefore becomes very important for a good tutor to give praise in the right ways and at the right times. When discussing progress, it becomes especially helpful if this is done in front of both child and parents, every single lesson. Having ones parents show pride in the progress they have made is an extremely powerful driving force for attaching positive emotion towards that which was previously perceived as negative.

The Praise Paradox

As parents, we naturally have a desire for our chidlren to ‘do their best’ in all things. Have you ever found that your children are more likely to ‘do their best’ in things they are already good at, but have difficulty putting in as much effort with the things they actuall need more motivation with?

When our chldren come home with a first place ribbon, a merit award or an A+ for their assignments, it’s natural for us to show our children how proud we are of them. If they have been working very hard towards something but don’t achieve a good outcome however, it is likely we may never even know about it. This means they are less likely to receive praise towards their efforts. The conditioning effect which this develops is that our children tend to drive themselves harder towards things they believe they are good at, whilst struggling to find motivation towards the areas which need improvement. In fact, when a young person does make an effort to push themselves in the direction they are insecure about and receive neither a good ourcome or praise for their efforts, it can be very disempowering and have a destructive effect on their motivation towards trying again.

Praise The Effort More Than The Result

One of the key strattegies we can use to boost our childrens confidence in things they are struggling with is to reward the effort rather than the result. The problem with this is not that we don’t care about their efforts as much, but rather we don’t find out about them as much! One of the most important effects that home based on-on-one tuition can have is to change that. By discussing their progress each week in front of child and parents, it gives us the opportunity to recognise and praise each little effort along the way. Moreover, each bit of progress now becomes like a ‘micro result’. So now the student does not need to wait until the end of term for a positive result, but can be praised for a good result every single week. When done in the right way, over time this can have a dramaticly positive effect on emotional linkage the child makes towards their progress.

Being In Control

The aversive conditioning effect that determines which triggers will send us into ‘fight or flight’ mode is initiated during times when a person feels threatened and powerless. To reverse this effect, we must induce the opposite feeling. This means that the person must consistently have a feeling of being in control over the thing which previously triggered the anxiety response.

For this reason, it is important that the student is encouraged to be actively involved in thinking about and planning their own goals, and does not feel as though they are being ‘spoon fed’. The tutor facilitates this process by providing encouragement and recommendations. Likewise, it is important that the student be encouraged to stop and think about what progress they have made. The tutor facilitates this process by filling in the blanks, providing reminders and agreement to reinforce the student’s picture of their own progress. This process not only creates the habit of goal setting, it empowers the student with confidence in their own decision making ability.

The more the student focuses on how much they have been in control of (and therefore responsible for) their own progress, the more empowering the experience becomes. The more frequent and consistent these empowering experiences occur, the greater effect it has on constructing and strengthening new positive beliefs; especially at the subconscious level.

What Does This Mean?

The meaning we attach to something determines how we feel towards it. As described above, it is important that the student establish positive emotional connections towards their progress by receiving praise and feeling that they are in control of it. The other important aspect to this emotional connection is that they focus on what meaning they place on it. When our focus zooms in on small progress, it becomes helpful to zoom out occasionally and focus on what that change means to our life in the long run. This is especially important for high school students who may be anxious about how their school performance will affect their life in the future. When the student is frequently asked to stop and think about how their future potential now ‘looks’ by comparison with what it did previously, this can have a profoundly uplifting impact on the emotional connections they develop towards that experience. It is not uncommon for students who previously felt hopeless about their future to break down in tears of relief when they focus on how much more potential their future now holds for them. In fact, the whole purpose of getting the student to focus on becoming aware of their progress is so that the emotional meaning they attach to it be used to power the confidence cycle full force ahead.

The End Result

When these strattegies are implemented successfully with consistency and repetition, the conditioned response is eventually reversed. Stress chemicals in the brain which previousy inhibited cognitive function are significantly decreased. Memory improves, concentration improves and motivation improves. The subconscious effect changes from the anxiety fuelled ‘pull away’ effect of aversion and self sabotage, into a confidence driven ‘pull towards‘ effect of enjoyment and passion.

Coaching For Confidence is a Delicate Skill

Being able to successfully apply the approaches described above requires being very familiar with confidence building techniques and strattegies; something which our tutors are specifically trained in doing.The way in which we do this would differ depending on various factors such as gender, cultural background and especially age. For example, applying these strattegies with an older HSC student would need to be done with a very different approach to a primaruy school student. If you speak to a teenager like a child, they are likely to detect that they are being ‘babied’. They may already be feeling sensitive about their weaknesses, and will respond negatively if it feels like they are being treated like there is something wrong with them. This means that “yay, good boy I’m so proud of you” might work with a kindergarten child, however a year 12 student requires a completely different communication style.

With our assistance however, we will help to ensure the most appropriate strategies are used to have the right effect on your child, regardless of their circumstances. Even if they may not necessarily have strong aversive effects towards their studies, anxiety always plays a significant role in affecting performance and outcomes. Being able to use emotional conditioning to our advantage is always a powerful tool for driving a young person’s motivation forward in the direction of confidence and success.

Parents Are The Most Valuable Influence

In addition to our focus on driving motivation through confidence building strategies, we also believe in empowering parents to have more control over their children’s success. In fact, we believe that parents are the most influential and therefore valuable resource a child has in determining their success both in school as well as life. When you enrol in a tuition program with us, we provide you with a wealth of information, resources and advice to help empower you with the necessary knowledge to make more of a difference. You will hear from other parents in similar situations to yours, and get to find out what strategies they have used and had success with in their own child’s education. You will also get to share your own ideas and experiences whilst comparing feedback with other parents, teachers and tutors.

This guide was taken from Top of the Class Professional Home Tuition Sydney

Private School vs Public School – Some Inconvenient Truths

By Stuart Adams from Top of the Class Professional Tutoring Sydney

Which is better – private schools or public schools? This is one of the most common questions parents ask me. The answer depends on numerous variables, but two factors come to mind more prominently than others. The first is that it ultimately comes down to the individual school(s) in question. The second is: better in what way?

Private schools are, statistically, more likely to pump out students who go to university than government schools. So if university acceptance is the goal (or at least the most important goal) then the private school must be the better selection right? Not necessarily. Children who attend private schools are also more likely to come from homes where a university education is considered an expectation. This does not mean that the private school is the causative factor in the equation.

There is no statistical evidence to suggest that the same child who attends a private school is more likely to get into uni than the exact same child would had they gone to a state school and had every other circumstance in their life the same with the exception of their school. Children who attend a private school are more likely to want to go to university as well.

So if you decide to send your child to a private school with the intention that it will affect their decision whether or not to attend university, then fine. If however they want to go to uni regardless, then the private school selection may not make them more likely to get in. In fact, culture and location are actually more likely to determine the probability of a child going to university than whether or not their high school was private or public.

Children from families in more affluent areas of Sydney for example are more likely to decide to go to university. In fact, one might even argue that sending a child to a public school in a more affluent area may result in a higher probability of them attending university than if they were to attend a private school in a lower socioeconomic area of Sydney. In fact, because the current NSW state school system allocates teaching positions based on an accumulation of credit points, by sending your child to a public school in a more affluent area, you will be guaranteeing your child is more likely to have teachers with an average greater number of years experience than what would be found among schools in the western suburbs.

Yes it does seem hardly equitable, especially given that education is the part of the cycle where intervention can occur when it comes to the low socioeconomic populations health and welfare problems. Don’t question it too much however; the Teachers Federation likes to maintain their tree hugging leftist image, and if anyone realised that the current system is anything but equitable, I think they’d strike until we shut up and go back to ignoring that. So we’ll leave that delicate little unpleasant part of the state systems reality, and move onto the next issue.

The greatest determining factors as to whether a child goes to university or not is how much they want to. If a child has a keen passion to expand their education, then they will – whether it be with a private or public school background. So why bother with private schools at all?

Other than religious influences, private schools are typically populated by children whose parent’s can afford their fees. Not all private schools have exorbitant fees however, but it basically means that the more you pay for your child’s private school education, the more they will be surrounded by other rich kids. So if having your child be surrounded by children from wealthier backgrounds is the goal (or perhaps just sheltering them from the poor kids) then yes, a private school education may be the way to go.

Private schools tend to be strict when it comes to behaviour related policies as well. So if you want to keep your son and or daughter away from the naughty kids – then yes, perhaps private is the way to go. Perhaps you just want to make sure your child is educated within a religious culture. That’s fine too – religious schools will definitely help with that. Some of the more affluent Christian schools will help you knock over multiple birds with the one stone there, as evidently in those schools, God loves all the children – except the ones who can’t afford more privileged conditions or those with behavioural difficulties.

So if it is your goal simply to manipulate the sociocultural environment that your child is exposed to throughout their schooling years, then perhaps selecting the appropriate private school will indeed help you achieve that goal. If having more experienced teacher’s is the goal however, then moving to a richer area will ensure that your child is privileged with more experienced teachers in the supposedly equitable state government education system. If your child is bright and you want them to be among other high achieving kids, then the schools with the highest rate of university entrances are actually selective schools, which are government schools by the way, and won’t cost any extra.

Whether or not you want to control the crowd your child knocks around with at school is up to you, but if you’d like to invest in your child’s academic future, then by far the most valuable use of your money is in private tuition. Above all, the absolutely best causative association between family decisions and entrance into university is the decision to hire a private tutor. Yes, Tutoring Sydney wide is more prominent than any other area of Australia, but the same is true in any city, town or suburb.

My advice for parents whose number one goal is to secure a strong educational foundation to support their child’s future is, most definitely, one-on-one private tutoring. With the right tutor, you will not only see improvements in your child’s scholastic performance, but most importantly a shift in their attitude, motivation and confidence. And if you want to know the biggest difference between kids who do well and those who do not? Three words: attitude, motivation and confidence. Children that want to do well and believe they can do well; will do well. It’s as simple as that.

For the best resources for parents on helping your child succeed, build confidence in their learning abilities and achieve a strong educational background, see the Top of the Class Tutor Sydney website.

The Best Way To Complain About An Incompetent Teacher

By Stuart Adams from Top of the Class Tutoring Sydney


One of the most common concerns that parents relay to me, is that they are unhappy with the way their child is treated at school. Not just by the other kids either, but frequently want to know the best way to go about making complaints about teachers.

“The teacher should be doing more for my child”, “It’s like we’re just another number and they don’t really care about us” as well as “I’ve tried voicing my concerns to the school but they don’t listen.” These are among the most common words I hear from frustrated parents, usually accompanied with an overall feeling of powerlessness and that it’s just “not fair”.

If these concerns are ones shared by yourself, then firstly – yes, you are very much justified in feeling this way. The way you and your child are treated by their school will have a huge impact on your son or daughter’s childhood and therefore the way the rest of their life is shaped. This means that being on the receiving end of unfavourable treatment by your child’s school is very much something worth being concerned about.  In fact, I’d be more concerned by parents who just don’t care.

Fortunately for your child however, the fact that you have read this far means that, you do care, and are right to do so. The good news is that there is a solution to these problems you may wish to consider before making complaint against teacher or school. The great news is that if you read the following carefully, you’ll know what it is and how to use it to your child’s advantage.


In an ideal world, all students are treated equally; there are no ‘favourites’ and no one slips through the cracks simply because their teachers don’t like them as much. In an ideal world, teachers are not human beings, and therefore teacher complaints would not exist. Well, they are human beings, but only have the good aspects that humans have such as being caring, nurturing and compassionate – none of the bad aspects that teachers have such as apathy or personal bias. Unfortunately however, personal bias is part of being human, and yes; teachers are humans too.

Yes, it’s not fair, but neither is the world. You know that. Now keeping that in mind, consider this: the reality is that your child can either be in their teachers good books, or not. Which would you prefer?

The Opposite of Instinct

When an animal is hurt or feeling threatened, it’s instinct is to bight, scratch or run away – even from the person trying to help it.  Likewise when we’re feeling ‘hard done by’ the same instinct tells us to get defensive, complain, argue and assert our authority over the person causing us to feel that way.

The problem with these instincts is that sometimes, natures defence mechanisms will only sabotage us.

If you want to know where I’m going here, consider this: think of the last time someone complained about you. If you were doing the best you could do, then it probably just made you resent that person. If you were in fact doing a slack job, then it probably just made you feel defensive – after all, no one wants their flaws to be brought to their attention.

Ask someone in the hospitality industry what happens when you complain about your food. The waiter might bring you out a freshly cooked meal with an apologetic smile, neglecting to tell you about the fresh glob of spit the cook added as a personal touch.

Lodging a teacher complaint will, at best, result in those people giving you the impression (to your face) that they are doing more to care about you. At the other end of the scale, it could make the situation much worse.

But If I Don’t Complain, What Else Can I Do?

The reality (however harsh) is that you can either chose to complain and have your child’s teacher hold a bias against your child, or you can instead choose to do the opposite.  Again, if your instinct to this last sentence is to scream out “but it’s not fair that my child should be unfavourably affected by the bias of unfair teachers or incompetent teachers” then, my suggestion is, write a letter to Santa to complain. At least he won’t spit in your soup. Now back to the real world…

“Right, so you’re saying the trick then is to suck up to the principle and teachers then?”  I sense you asking. No, that doesn’t work either. Flattery certainly works better than complaints and aggression. Using flattery, suck ups and brown nosing to draw favourable attention towards your child’s needs are like using a sling shot however, when a cannon is readily available. You just need to know how to load it.


In the opening of this article, did it feel like I understood your situation? Did it appeal to you, because a little buzzer lit up in your brain flashing “ah….yes! This person understands where I’m coming from – they must be on my side!” If so, then I was successful in establishing a rapport with you. I needed to do that, because some of the things I was going to tell you in the following paragraphs about the harshness of reality were perhaps things that you may have otherwise felt a bit defensive about. In order to ‘warm you up’ enough so that you were likely to take that harshness with a more open mind, I first needed to relax the critical factor of your mind, by establishing a rapport with you. I did that by making you feel that I understood your concerns, your frustrations, your hope and your desires.

Establishing a rapport with someone is the first step you must take in order to get that person to do anything what you want. In this case, what want firstly, is for your child’s teacher(s) and or principal to understand you, and care about you. In order to achieve that outcome, you must first show that you understand and care about them. It’s as simple as that.

The ‘Catch 22’ of Conflict Resolution.

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes as they say, or more importantly to see (and especially feel) the world in the way that another person sees (and feels) it, can be difficult at the best of times. Studies suggest that at least 90% of the time, our thoughts are focused exclusively on things that directly affect us. At very best, our ability to engage in empathic thoughts are generally limited to those we actually care about such as our family members.

The times that our ability to exercise empathy is most limited is when we are feeling threatened (which may manifest as fear, anger or frustration). The people we are least able to exercise empathy towards of course, are those who are causing (often unintentionally) us to feel this way. It is therefore no surprise why conflict is so prevalent in the world.

If you have not already established an unfavourable relationship with your child’s teacher(s), then this process is going to be easier. If however tension has already been mounting, this is going to be a bit more challenging.

There are some basic rules for establishing rapport with anyone, in any situation. For starters, it is important to remember to listen to the other person twice as much as what you speak to them, and when you to speak, speak twice as much about them (or things they have indicated they are interested in speaking about) than yourself.  Going a step further than this, it is a good idea to understand and recognise the other person’s struggles, frustrations as well as their hopes and achievements.

A Teachers Struggles

Teaching a class full of kids can be a very stressful job. Even if you don’t think so, the teacher thinks so, and they really, REALLY want other people to acknowledge that.

A Teachers Achievements

You know what really sucks when you put in extra effort for someone? When it goes unrecognised. You have probably experienced this in your own life. Now imagine you’re a teacher. As a teacher, imagine that you really do try your best with a kid, get no appreciation from the parents but instead receive complaints instead? Now guess which kid you’re going to remember never to try to hard over ever again.

On the other hand (and I can attest to this from my own experiences at parent – teacher nights) imagine that one of your student’s actually recognised the efforts you’ve made, relays it back to mum or dad, and they show their appreciation to you at a later stage. These are the moments that make you feel like teaching is worthwhile after all. When their feedback is supported by citing specific examples of what you have done, especially when it’s about with things you figured no one would even recognise or appreciate (but secretly you wanted them to), then imagine how this feels. Wow! Guess which kid you’re going to remember to make that extra effort over next time? Moreover, guess which kid you’re likely to respond favourably to when their parents raise a concern with you?

And on the rare occasion you hear a mum or dad tell you that they’ve noticed the effect you’ve had on their child at home is inspirational? Chances are after you’ve wiped back the tears you are likely to stop at nothing to move mountains for that child and their wellbeing for as long as they are your student. In fact, those are the students whose memory stays with you forever.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure these things out however, yet you’d be surprised how many people seem to think that the most effective means of getting their way is by showing no appreciation and making nothing but complaints and demands – the exact opposite of what is more likely to work!

Being able to express genuine appreciation to your child’s teachers, as easy as it sounds, does require one fundamental key: You need to actually know what your child’s teachers are doing in the classroom, and you need to know what they are doing well. To do that, you have to ask your child. Regularly. Most importantly, you need to know how to ask the right questions, and how to interpret the responses you receive.

Ultimately the goal here is to find out, through your child, what efforts their teacher has been going to, so that you can show genuine appreciation for them when it comes time to communicate directly with the Teacher. To go a step above appreciating their efforts is to recognise the positive effects that those efforts have been having on your child. Even if it is your belief that the teachers efforts are “not good enough” there is almost always some (even if just a little) benefits to your child. If you’re struggling to see them, then perhaps the best approach you can take at this point is to know how to look for them.

How Your Child Treats Their Teacher Affects How Their Teacher Treats Them.

The other thing that is crucially important here is how your child responds to their teacher. If you want your child to be in their teachers ‘good books’ then it is vitally important that they show genuine respect and appreciation to them. Your child is not going to respect their teacher if they hear you speaking negatively about them.

They may show their teacher respect if they happen to like them naturally, but whether they do or not, you can influence this part of the process by the respect that your child sees that you have for their teacher.  This means that in addition to asking your child about what efforts and positive effects that their teacher has ben having on them, it is important to speak highly about the teacher with your child.

Once your child becomes aware of the respect that you have for their teacher, they will be more likely to follow any advice you now want to give them about how they can show respect to their teacher whilst at school.  So what advice can you give them?

The ‘what not to do’ things are the most obvious (don’t argue, don’t talk back etc) but the most important ‘to do’ is to show genuine appreciation. Every day when I pick him up from school, I ask my son “did you thank your teacher today for their lesson?”  Yes; even when someone is merely doing the job they are being paid to do, if you want them to do the best job they can possibly do, the most effective way of facilitating this process is to show honest, sincere appreciation for something they have done.

If your frustration makes this difficult, begin to let any negative feelings just blur softly into the background, and instead search for, focus on and zoom in on anything and everything positive.  If you don’t appreciate 9 out of 10 things they do, then at least focus on the 1 that you do, and appreciate their intentions for the other 9 even if you don’t appreciate the outcome.


This article started by first appealing to the frustrations of parent’s feeling ‘hard done by’ when it comes to their child’s situation at school. It then moved into an almost ‘expose’ on the cold hard realities of human nature and how to manipulate authority to suit ones self didn’t it? Was it surprising then that it concluded that it all comes down to being positively minded, showing respect and honest appreciation?

Chances are, you probably already knew the value of sincere appreciation – I think we all do. The problem is however, when we take issue with someone or feel frustrated by something, the likelihood that we start focusing on how to make the other person feel good about themselves begins to deteriorate, as instead we become almost exclusively focused with a tunnel vision view of “what about me?”

The reason for twisting the focus of this article through these three stages of emotional context was simply because, as I’m sure you are by now aware, sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious when we’re blinded by our own defensive emotions.

Just remember that at a fundamental level, every teacher joins the profession because they are fuelled by a deep down desire to make a difference in the lives of their students. Over time, the lack of appreciation they encounter slowly extinguishes their passion, which is why it is common to come across teachers who don’t seem particularly enthusiastic about going all-out for their students.

Whilst negativity is the cause of a teacher’s apathy, I promise you that if you make them feel the way they were originally fuelled by when they entered the profession, you will rekindle a burning passion that will light the way for your child and their future.

Whilst you may have come here wanting to know how to write a complaint letter about a teacher, hopefully not you’ve just found a better solution. Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.

At Top of the Class Professional Tuition Sydney, as one of our clients, not only will you receive one-on-one tutoring for your son or your daughter, you’ll also receive access to a wide range of our parent support resources. These include regular newsletters and discussions about how to best affect some of the things mentioned in this article, including:

  • How to ask your child about what’s going on in class
  • How to interpret their responses
  • How to communicate favourably with the teacher(s) and or principal

For more advice, tips and articles, see the Top of the Class Home Tuition Sydney website.

Breaking the Cycle of Self Sabotage

By Stuart Adams from Top of the Class Home Tutoring

Unlocking Potential.

 Q: Have you ever wondered why some people achieve some things with ease, whilst others find the same things near impossible? Even though we all have different genetic capabilities, why is it that some people reach their full genetic potential, whereas others don’t even come close?

When it comes to our children’s academic performance and their future success, wouldn’t you like the keys to unlock their full potential and the powerful tools to build them a strong solid future?

Regardless of the genetic make and model, the road we travel is largely guided by our thoughts, and driven by our feelings. It is only when we understand the cyclical relationship between emotions, cognition and behavior that we become empowered to intervene.

Momentum From Experience

One of the most influential yet underestimated aspects of learning is emotion. How we feel towards something effects how we think about it, and subsequently what we do about it. On the positive end of the scale, are things which we enjoy, have confidence in and a motivation towards. At the opposite end however are those things that we dislike and have no motivation towards. Whether or not something (including school activities or particular school subjects) falls towards the positive or negative end of this scale largely depends on cognitive cycles that develop and gain momentum following our experiences. Because most experiences occur incidentally, many of those cycles are driven automatically. If we understand how to modify those experiences however, not only can we break those cycles; we can reverse them in a positive direction.

The Fear Cycle: A barrier to True Potential.

The following describes the processes by which a child’s ‘weakness’ begins, progresses, develops and spirals out of control, often into adulthood. The cyclical pattern described below is the number one reason that many students fail to reach their true potential, why many drop out of school and why many students struggle with their HSC subjects far more than they need to. The cycle can apply to anything, so “X” could be Mathematics, English, Homework, Essays, Exams, Creativity, Art, Sport, Social Interaction, Public Speaking – the list is unlimited. Cycles which start during school years often continue into adulthood, and can last a lifetime if not altered.

· The child approaches X with no confidence. (Thought: The belief they are not good at X. Emotion: Fear of the unfamiliar).

· Their lack of confidence impairs them from doing well at X. (Despite our conscious thoughts and actions, our subconscious beliefs act as an invisible yet powerful force).

· Their poor performance reinforces the belief that they are not good at X. As an emotional side effect, the fear of unfamiliarity now turns to fear of failure, and by doing so produces a ‘wound’ in the child’s self-esteem.

· Now reattempting X is like running a race with a wounded leg. The reinforced fear handicaps their efforts, and results in poor performance again. This experience further reinforces their original belief and associated fear.

· At some point, this poor performance is likely to attract some form of criticism. Even if done so with constructive intentions, the criticism of what they are already feeling vulnerable about only adds salt to the wound and reinforces the existing negative cycle more than ever.

· By this stage, the pain and fear of failure has become so great, the minds defense mechanisms kicks in. So now the conscious mind interprets X with frustration, irritation and perhaps even hatred. Either way, the child has formed a negative attitude towards X.

· This negative attitude will affect how they perceive anything to do with X. For example, even if they do better the next time they attempt X, the child is less likely to notice their progress and instead focus on their failings or other negative aspects about X. (This psychological effect is similar to the ‘placebo effect’ in reverse). By this stage the child has become especially sensitive to criticism about X, and is likely respond poorly to praise even when they do well at X.

· Now that the belief and fear is so strongly established, the negative wheels are set in motion. From this point forward the cycle continues to gain momentum and spiral out of control. If X happens to be a school subject or something which they will have to continue doing for the rest of their school life, some of the more detrimental signs that a negative cycle is in place will appear during High School. Other than a negative attitude, the student will struggle finding motivation to engage in any learning associated with X and may experience difficulty concentrating on X-related activities. Motivation and difficulty concentrating will of course impair their performance leading to poor marks, criticism and further drives the cycle with more and more momentum.

The negative cycle which may have begun back in Primary School becomes especially problematic around HSC time, even when the student tries to force themselves to learn and study, their motivation and concentration are only impaired further by the stress they now face about how their HSC marks will affect their future. Whilst it is never too late to intervene, parents must understand that the more momentum these cycles have gained, the more difficult it becomes to slow the cycle and then reverse it.

The Tell Tale Signs of Negative Cycles.

In school, when the student receives lowered marks, the effect builds the belief that they are not good at the subject. By the time the cycle is complete, the student not only dislikes the subject but any attempt they make to approach it is met with difficulty such as impaired motivation and increased distractibility.

As a parent, these negative cycles may have already developed and gained significant momentum in our children without us even realizing. One of the most fundamental steps to intervention is the ability to identify the warning signs. Early signs include:

· Your child displays a negative attitude towards the subject when asked about it. (Pay particular to your child’s eye movements and body language when you bring it up in conversation.)

· Your child displays poor motivation or shows an increased ease of distractibility when doing homework or assignments.

· You notice a gradual increase in difficulty when it comes to getting your child to do their homework.

· Your child’s school teacher(s) mention that they have noticed any of the above.

As your child grows into adolescence and adulthood, the separation of consciousness tends to widen, as the conscious mind now employs logic to support a lesser burdening belief. In other words, the person’s conscious rationalization for why they don’t like the task has adapted so that it better fits with something they can feel intelligent about.

How You Can Help.

If these negative cycles have developed because your child has essentially ‘slipped through the cracks’ at school, then the most effective means of intervention is private tuition. Private, one-on-one tuition can have a remarkable effect on a young persons attitude, and subsequent performance. Tutoring of course can be relatively useless however, depending on the approach your tutor uses. Things to look out for when deciding on a private tutor:

· In home tutoring. Learning happens best in a familiar environment, as long as that environment is a comfortable one. Because there is no environment as familiar as the home, in-home tutoring is the most effective.

· Your in-home tutor should start by establishing, developing and working with your child’s strengths, including their ‘hidden’ strengths. Personal strengths can be strategically utilized to bridge gaps in existing weaknesses. New strengths are then discovered and developed in the process, whilst weaknesses shrink and fade into extinction.

· A good Home Tutor should identify and expand your child’s passions and interests. By adapting lessons to be more personally relevant to your child’s interests, the learning process becomes more engaging, more fun and more motivating.

· The most important aspect of any good home tuition service is to focus on reconditioning the way your child feels towards areas of schoolwork they have been struggling with. By applying strategic goal setting techniques and redirecting their focus towards progress, the student builds confidence in areas they previously struggled to focus on.

· The other important aspect of good in-home tutoring is to improve the way your child feels towards identifying and correcting their own mistakes, to become a more autonomous and efficient learner.

One of the most common reasons that parents will hire a private in-home tutor is because they are concerned about their child’s grades slipping. As many parents report, this is often because the child has a poor attitude and low motivation towards their schoolwork. With the help of the right strategies, negative cycles can be overcome. Once a child begins feeling enthusiasm towards their school work, their performance will show a massive improvement. Tutors should always remember that it is the emotional impact on learning which has the greatest impact.

More information, resources and articles can be found at the Home Tutors Sydney website.