The mock GCSE examinations are now a distant memory, the subsequent period of pupil (and staff) reflection now complete and our Senior 5 Parents evening took place last Thursday evening.
An appropriate time for me to engage in a reflection of the challenges faced by teachers and the pressures that senior pupils face as they approach the final preparations for their Public Examinations.
Of course, priority for teachers is to ensure that they manage to deliver the syllabus, with adequate time remaining for revision and last-minute preparations. Delivering the syllabus is, understandably, taken for granted. However, with the recent changes to the syllabus of many academic subjects, together with the restructuring of the GCSE examination grades (now represented numerically), this is proving to be more of a challenge than it once was.
My own teaching philosophy whenever I entered the spring and summer term was to deliver my subject content at a pace that enabled the pupils to academically ‘peak’ at just the right time. The potential consequences for pupils peaking too early are the risk of petering out, losing momentum and enthusiasm and becoming ‘flat’, characteristics which further add to worry, pressure and stress. The challenge of regaining enthusiasm and momentum then presents itself to teachers – who already have one eye on the completion of the syllabus!
It is pleasing to experience many positive attributes displayed by our Senior 5 pupils at this time of the year. A strong desire to succeed, combined with a solid work ethic and being totally supportive of each other will no doubt have an impact as their Cransley School journey enters its final, and extremely important phase.
However, as admirable as such qualities are, the Senior 5 pupils must guard against ‘burnout’ by academically peaking too early. A sensible approach to additional work in their own time needs careful and mature time management skills. The pupils need to obtain enough sleep, eat well and devote enough ‘me time’ that provides opportunities to take a mental break from academia, by participating in social, sporting and other leisure time activities that will serve to maintain a healthy school/life balance. Time away from school should not all be about academia.
I hope that our Senior 5 pupils take a degree of consolation from Aristotle, who claimed that ‘The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet’.
What the Senior have at their disposal is a dedicated team of experienced and enthusiastic academic staff who are more than happy to go the extra mile and provide as much support and guidance out of the classroom as they do during timetabled lessons. In addition, a pastoral framework at Cransley School that will celebrate the good times and assist the pupils if ever they experience an academic ‘wobble’.
After all, Confucius stated that ‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop’.