Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Exam Time: Season 7, starring Tracy Alexander

I work from home most of the time. And I am mostly alone. Except in exceptional circumstances such as . . . exam season. It is, to clarify, my seventh public exam season. During this period I take on extra roles including taxi driver, nutritionist, supply teacher and negotiator of virtual landmines. There have been moments when I’d have rather been sitting in an office, far from the hothouse of data cramming, but being around and available when your kids are stressed is, of course, one of the privileges of flexible working. And I embrace it.
Being truly seasoned, I have tips. They may not be useful, or practical, or wise.
(There are ten, because there are always ten for alliterative purposes.)

1 A dog is invaluable
Dogs do not give you helpful advice. Dogs do not whisper about your chances. Dogs do not read your predictions. Dogs do not care about your revision timetable. Dogs lick your face. Only dogs understand what teenagers are going through.
(Warning: Dogs are for life, not just for exams.)

2 Less is more
There is too much talking. Parents have done exams themselves. They know everything. They want to tell you. This is all white noise. Talk less.
(Unless you’re discussing meal-planning for the day after the last exam, when eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in bed in front of Netflix is obligatory. Then more is more and more and more . . .)
All the words you need:
I love you.
Do you want a lift?
Do you have a bottle of water?
Don’t forget to leave your phone outside the room.
I love you.

3 Actions
Actions speak louder, and more intelligibly, than words.
Deliver, wordlessly, a hot drink or a tasty treat, a hug, or a gift*

*A stress toy, chocolate, or the pig from Moana are all top gifts.
(A Revision Guide is less appealing, but preferable to the course text book thanks to its relative size.)

4 Food and drink
Stock up on an abundance of both, nutritious and not nutritious.
Sugar is bad because of that up and down thing, but sugar is good because it tastes nice and makes people happy.
Exam mornings require easy to swallow slop.
Water all students as though they’re hydrangeas. Adrenalin starves the body of water. Dehydrated brains don’t work as well.
(It’s important for the support worker to eat delicious treats, and make the most of the units the government allows us.)

5 Rest breaks
Rest breaks are intervals between revising. They may vary in length, from most of the day to half an hour. (Less than half an hour is punctuation.)
Call me old-fashioned, but a rest break should involve something other than a screen. See 6) Exercise.

6) Exercise
The dog is the perfect excuse to get the examinee out of the house. In the absence of a dog, walk to the take-away. Walk to the bakery and buy cakes. Walk to a friend’s house.
Use those apps everyone has that count your steps and make a random minimum target for exam season . . . however small.
Even better, run, play tennis, skateboard . . . swim in the sea . . .
(Don’t eat, sleep, revise.
Also don’t check your phone, eat, check your phone, sleep, check your phone, revise, check your phone.)

7) Positivity
Exams are not the beginning or the end of the world. They’re exams. Some people do better than others. Some people work harder than others. Some people are tall and some people aren’t. Some people can remember every box on the periodic table and some can’t, and some don’t want to. Where you end up in life is about way more than a few capital letters next to a few subject names on a sheet of paper. Chill!

8 Mess
Who cares?
Leave the past papers, the scribbled-on A4 pages, the text books and the revision guides where they are. Scoop up the chocolate wrappers, the discarded drinks and the tissues. Repeat.
Abandon all ideas of personal space for the duration. 

9 Being asked for academic help . . .
Do not use the voice.
(I don’t know what the voice is, but I know not to use it. Knowing and doing are two different things.)
Do not use the word obvious.

10 Results
What’s done is done. Rejoice regardless. They’re young, and, as the lovely Mrs Gillman who taught all three of my wee ones used to say, “You’re a long time grown”.

 Tracy Alexander


Penny Dolan said...

Thanks, Tracy and good wishes to all your exam chicks.

There are definitely times when being able to work from home has benefits - even if they don't exactly help with the writing.

Rowena House said...

Wise words indeed! Heard from my cat-person, exam-sitting son that cats good de-stressers too. Best of luck, everyone. Summer break just around the corner.

Andrew Preston said...

Well, yes. But dogs are your friend if you feed them.
A cat? A cat very definitely will sniff the hand that feeds it.
Which makes them much more interesting to me.

Having said which, your dog does have a lovely choochy face. (Your blog).