Tomorrow is the Year 12 end of year exam …
150 minutes. Three questions, on Richard III, Edward II, and Tennyson‘s ‘Maud‘. And despite my best efforts, my class have been increasingly panicked, increasingly convinced that a ‘U’ grade will result in their being kicked off the course. Most of my free periods this week have been taken up in reassurance and revision.
It’s been contagious:
Open your ears! For who could possibly block them when loud Rumor speaks? (2HIV)
And it’s been unhelpful. For a certain type of student, fear of failure is the biggest barrier they have to succeeding. Whoever propagated this ‘you’re getting kicked out’ myth needs a kick in the codpiece.
One of the latest things I asked my students to consider was the contrast in pre-battle speeches between Richard and Richmond. Which inspired me to email them my own, a short while ago …
I know you are nervous about tomorrow, so here is my final ‘speech before battle’:
I have enjoyed teaching you very much this year. All of you. You’re a varied group in backgrounds, target grades, abilities, and personalities. Some of us have ‘history’; others are new and interesting people in their own right. Overall, you are a great class, and I think I can speak for [redacted: the other A Level teacher] in this too. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you as individuals this year …
Of course you should feel pressure to do as well as you possibly can. If you didn’t, I would get ‘the hump’. The fact that so many of you care, makes ME care about reassuring you.
Remember that we want you to continue your studies next year: no-one wants you to leave. If your results are disappointing, in English (or overall), you might decide that the subject (or sixth form) is not for you, and we will miss you but wish you well. If you want to stay, we will take a ‘holistic’ view of your performance over the year, and worst case scenario is probably that we sit down and have a grown-up chat about what’s gone wrong and set some stricter boundaries about what you need to do next year.
So, please DO panic tomorrow. For 5 minutes. It’s useful, because your additional adrenaline will make you think AND write surprisingly quickly. Then dive in. Do your best. Show off what you have learned this year – and you all HAVE made progress this year. At least, demonstrate that you know what you need to do, even if your knowledge of the texts is a bit shaky.
In some ways, what you do to improve next year is MUCH more important than what you do tomorrow. So, my feedback is going to take forever, and the only way you can disappoint me or in any way let me down is not to read it carefully and act on it.
Unless you are the sort of person who thrives on last-minute cramming, try to get a reasonably early night. I’ll be hovering before the exam tomorrow, but ‘they‘ often get funny about class teachers being present for exams, plus I have a ‘boring’ class, period 1.
So, if I don’t see you, I wish you lots of luck. See you on the other side …
PS: don’t forget to write neatly: you know who you are 😝