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Charting Course: Gradually, Then Suddenly

Category: Option E Educating

Submitted by on Sun 07/08/16 08:59

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked. 

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.”

These lines from Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, reveal a lot about the human experience when it comes to success and failure. There’s pain and shock when the world collapses beneath our feet. Then we realise that this outcome was quite predictable.

Once we analyse what led us to this point, we can usually see where we went wrong. The conflicting intentions, the minor procrastinations, the blind eyes we turn…. Like the cracks and rust on the bridge, they don’t matter the one hundred times we safely cross—until one day they do.

It also seems common to the human experience that we’re rarely motivated to act unless a crisis is upon us. We see this over and over in life experiences: studies, businesses, relationships. It’s not until something large and irreversible happens—when we risk losing all—that we feel compelled to act. But often it’s too late.

The media talks about the suddenlies. We notice the suddenlies. We comment on the suddenlies. Yet it’s the graduallies that should really take our attention.

Excellence requires consistent gradualies. Endurance, effort, self-reflection and wisdom propels us toward the destination we seek. Day by day, year by year, we improve, build, earn and learn until, shockingly, we find ourselves 'suddenly' successful!

At BAC we’re paying attention to the gradualies, especially in teaching and learning.


You have now received the first report card in the new format which pinpoints more accurately the gradualies that have led to your child’s results. It has given you better insight into the day to day development of their knowledge, understanding and skills, habits and attitudes. It has also provided you and your child with a better understanding of how to continue or change in order to achieve a good outcome.


While we often see children suddenly ‘click’ with their learning in the classroom, it is usually the result of hours, days, weeks and years of steady and gradual development. This year, we’re being more intentional than ever by helping our students construct their own SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely learning goals). These build reflection into the learning process and help students see how their commitment to day to day habits and behaviours contribute to their learning success. [Read more about SMART goals in our next article.]


The new senior phase of learning focuses on helping senior students get their gradualies in order so that they are ready to launch into the world at the end of Year 12. This process allows them to move towards suitable academic and vocational streams of learning earlier, provides a greater choice of Authority subjects (OP) and vocational courses and certificates, helps students commit to practical strategies for success, and encourages them to target short and long-term goals along the way. 

Gradualies apply to every aspect of our lives. Yet one at a time, they contribute to a good, strong foundation and avoid a path that ‘suddenly’ collapses beneath our feet. The best thing about gradualies? Wherever you find yourself, you can make a start right now. 


AUTHOR: Principal Leanne Entermann writes a series of articles called 'Charting Course' in which she talks about topics important to the future direction of our College.


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