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them to develop strong self-awareness skills. At Hong Kong Academy we believe this is best achieved through establishing inclusive communities in which everyone can thrive.

For my last birthday I received my first ever set of brand new golf clubs. Encased in a bright shiny bag with all the golf gadgets one could hope for, I was eager to try them out beyond the confines of the living room. The first opportunity came soon enough as I joined up with three other friends who, it is fair to say, are considerably better golfers than me. Perched on the first tee looking at the flag in the distance, I demonstrated a perfect practice swing (in my head at least) that was followed by a swing that barely connected with the ball that then ricocheted off at 90 degrees, hit a tree and landed behind me. Amusing as it was, what I remember most was what followed. I was encouraged to play the shot again, sending the message that I would do better the next time around. One of the golfers suggested that I had a good swing, but that I was standing too far away from the ball. He showed me a way to be more aware of my stance and to slow down my approach. He modeled the swing, while the others used humor as a reminder that this was going to be a fun experience for all. My second attempt to hit the ball, although not as memorable as the first, was much better, and that set the tone for the aſternoon: each of us discussing aspects of the game and relating them to our own abilities, telling stories or providing personal anecdotes, congratulating each

other for good shots, and all of the time assuming that we all had the capacity to keep improving.

I believe my experience on the golf course is how our classroom cultures should be as well. By encouraging students and teachers to be respectful and supportive of one another regardless of individual differences, we create inclusive learning cultures in which individuals are motivated to persevere and improve even when they are confronted with difficulties. Modeling strengths and celebrating accomplishments allows each student to seek bright spots that he or she can continue to practice as part of his or her continuous learning journey. The use of positive presuppositions and language that encourages growth increases the likelihood that students will not give up too easily or develop negative self-images. It does not mean that we have to say that something is really wonderful when it’s not, but with developmentally appropriate learning tasks and clear purpose, we can help students become advocates for themselves and establish high expectations as the norm. In doing so, there is a greater chance that learners will stick at things longer and possibly discover something about themselves that would otherwise have been lost because they had simply given up.

At the end of four hours of ambling through some spectacular scenery, my golfing buddies and I shook hands and tallied our scores. Our use of a handicap system meant that what was important was our

individual score and personal improvement — not whether I had scored better than the other three players. We had shared the same experiences, played the same course, talked the same language and all gone out with the same expectation to play our best, improve and have fun. Later that evening we returned home, relived our triumphs and tribulations with our poor unsuspecting spouses and soon aſter, contacted each other about booking another round.

At HKA, we want our students to return home each day eager to tell us about their experiences. By actively promoting inclusive learning cultures, we increase the possibility of children telling stories of personal triumphs about how they worked through dilemmas and how their peers and teachers supported them regardless of their abilities. Most of all, we increase the likelihood that students will see school as a place that is both for learning and for having fun. Maybe everyday won’t be this ideal, but we should strive to ensure that this becomes the norm for our students as oſten as possible. In doing so, we reduce the default of either giving up because something is difficult, or feeling self-conscious about current ability, and we maximize the possibility of developing students who see learning as a life-long endeavor.


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