After witnessing something close to shell shock, when my students had to do an assessment…I decided to drill down and find out why…
We had a little ‘family chat’ in between analysing some Steinbeck and their feelings and views bit me to the core.
They believe that if they fail their GCSEs- their life will be over.
It’s as if they have one shot at success and that’s it. Do or die.
One teacher told them that they’d end up homeless if they didn’t get their gcses. Other teachers constantly threaten them with failing their exam in over 2 years if they don’t memorize yet another key bit of information.
They said their assemblies focus on GCSEs the whole time and they’re already fatigued by this incessant threat of possible failure years before the real thing.
As they’re in a lower set, they already feel inferior to their peers and many just expect themselves to not understand or write very little. (Here in lies the issues around setting.)
I know this is how most children feel in Secondary school and the clear pressure they feel from school to get it right NOW is turning more and more children off. This immediately negates a nurturing environment into a monolithic, minimalist definition of success.
I told them straight that you can restart your life at any given moment. There’s no finishing line! That GCSEs or anything else do not define their worth.
After doing some intensive timed work to acclimatise to exam situations, I then sang a couple of verses of an Adele song and they left happier and more confident than before.