Testing Times

This week is a nation-wide week of testing. Seven year olds, eleven year olds, sixteen year olds, eighteen year olds. SATS. GCSES. A Levels.

Tests are a cause of enormous stress for everybody, but for nobody more than those sitting them. As teachers, our sense of our ability rests on their tests. As parents, our hopes for our kids rest on those tests. But for those doing the tests, it feels as if passing the tests is pretty much the most important thing imaginable.

You don’t need a calendar to tell it is May in a Year 6 classroom. You can read it on the worried faces and on their bitten nails. Same for those sitting GCSEs, where there is the strange mix of anxiety, bravado and panic.

It is hard to give advice in this situation, which will apply to everyone, but I am going to try.

It would maybe reassure you to know that it has all been a trick to make you work hard. Actually, exams don’t matter, so just get through the next couple of weeks and you’ll be fine. It might reassure you, but it is not true. Your tests do matter, and how well you do in them will send you off down particular paths, holding particular maps. It goes without saying that you should pass your tests to the best of your ability – passing tests is better than not passing them, so try your hardest, because it will make it easier for you to do whatever it is you want to do if you pass whichever tests you ever do.

Work hard, and focus yourself, but please keep this in mind – there are always second chances if you want them, and your choices are only ever limited not eliminated. If you pass the tests with the grades you wanted, brilliant, well done. If you didn’t. well that’s very annoying for you, but the question now is: what next?

If you choose to give up and do something else that is your choice. If you choose to re-focus yourself, re-sit and go for that same goal again, then that is also your choice.

This might not be the awe-inspiring Pep-Talk or the reassuring hug but it is something that ought to help anybody who keeps it in their mind. People arrive at the place they want to arrive only if they keep that in mind – you are more likely to get lost if you get completely bogged down on where you are in the journey.

My navigation skills are, at times, pretty poor. I can tell you about loads of times when I got lost. Sometimes, when I’ve been trying to go somewhere and my battery had died, or Google Maps has gone mental, I have had to just resign myself to walking quite blindly and think ‘I am kind of going in that direction’. It makes you panic but it is weirdly quite exciting. When I have had to do that I have sometimes stumbled across good things I’ve not seen before, and sometimes – vividly in the summer of 2013 – I have found myself nervously carrying a binbag through what looked like a council estate from Soviet Russia. Still got to where I needed to go though.

We all get lost, and end up taking paths we didn’t want to have to take, but doing that does not mean you won’t find your destination eventually.

So when you are doing your exams, work hard. This is a bit like sticking closely to the map – it is the best way to make sure you end up where you want to go. But if you feel the stress is too much, stop for a breather. Chill out a bit. Remember that any destination can be reached in many different ways, and there are always different routes. If you get lost, you get lost, and that sucks for you. But if you still want to end up wherever your destination is, you always have the chance to do that.

Keep the destination in mind, then stop reading my ridiculous self-indulgent blog, grab a can of Monster, smash through your revision notes and do your best.

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