In recent years August has been dominated by news and commentary about A level results. This year is no different but with the new style exams it has been even more stressful than usual. Rightly so, teachers have complained that with no mark schemes, no clarity about grade boundaries and no past papers for students to practise, they have felt ill prepared.
The media’s reactions to results have been mixed. Schools Week reported: ‘Among 18-year-olds in England, the proportion achieving an A* or A grade in these subjects decreased from 25 per cent last year to 24.3 per cent this year, a fall of 0.7 points.’
The Guardian took a different tack: ‘The proportion of top marks awarded at A-level has risen overall for the first time in six years and boys did better than girls at gaining A and A* grades.
What is quite certain is that some teachers will be feeling upset today if their students have not done as well as expected. As well as feeling sad for individual students who may have had a lot riding on their exam results, teachers will also feel under pressure to explain and justify disappointing results.
I have found that teachers often blame themselves even though they are only one part of the equation. They feel guilty and think: “I’ve have failed my students,” or “I’ve let everybody down.” These are not rational thoughts.
If you have been affected by the exam results, you need to take stock and not react impulsively. You need to shift from Emotional Mind to Wise Mind. This does not mean we are not validating your feeling, because they are important. Instead of being overwhelmed by feelings you need to think logically and plan your next steps.
Do not set up meetings or send emails when you your Emotional Mind is dominant. Don’t just think before you act: Think, Plan, Pause and then leave it for several hours at least before you Act. This gives you time to be sure that you have chosen the right course of action. It might be wise to talk over your worries and concerns with someone who can give you an objective view but whose opinion you trust. They might have a totally different take on the situation which could make you pause and reflect.
We often say, ‘Look after yourself’ and this is one of those times when it really matters. When you have had an emotional shock and are feeling low, you need to be kind to yourself. This does not mean being totally self-indulgent, heading out to the pub for the night or maxing out the credit card because this will just pile on more pressure in the long-term. Take time out to have a relaxing bath or shower, listen to music, go for a walk or engage in some form of exercise and when you are in a calmer frame of mind, reflect on what has happened. Look at the big picture. Think about why you became a teacher, the highlights and the low points.
Whatever happens, make sure you set aside some time to reflect on what has happened and how you can learn from it. Why did it happen? How much of it was your responsibility? How much was beyond your control – lack of information, changes in policy, shortage of preparation time? What, if anything, might you do differently if faced with the same situation again?
We can’t always control what happens in life but we can go some way to controlling the effect it has on us.