Pixel Learning brings together film and education to inspire empathy in young people – empowering them to deal with challenging issues in their lives.
In this third of four guest blogs, Catherine Miller, a secondary school English teacher and writer living and working in South London, gives you seven tips to help make the exam season as smooth as possible.
Exam season is nearly upon us, and for new and experienced teachers alike, it can be a fraught time. With our students facing SATs, GCSEs and A-Levels, it can sometimes be as tough for us teachers as it is for them.
As such, it is important to take care of yourself – a stressed-out teacher will be less effective and can pass on more anxiety and worry to learners. Here are some tips for getting through this high-pressured period.
1. Get organised
Much as we encourage the students to make a revision timetable, we should also plan carefully for this busy period. Work backwards from the exam, making sure you’ve left time to cover any remaining course material, address key areas in revision lessons and go through past papers. Take into account any lessons missed for INSET, holidays or other exams so the final approach is as smooth as possible.
2. Focus on key problems
You may not have time to cover the whole syllabus again, so try to be selective. Examiners’ reports can highlight common errors; AFL tasks such as Personalised Learning Checklists or reflective questioning can encourage students to suggest their own areas of weakness.
3. Keep up your hobbies
It might be tempting to ditch the gym or book club to squeeze in one more round of marking, but maintaining your personal life is important. An activity that takes your mind off the impending exams can be just the thing to alleviate stress. Remember that there is life outside school!
4. Take a break
It can be a good idea to schedule some time specifically for rest and relaxation. Yoga, meditation or mindfulness help some people clear mental space, but you could also go for a walk or take a bath. Recognise when you need down-time and be selfish about taking it.
5. Give yourself something to look forward to
Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and schedule some rewards for yourself, whether that’s a holiday in the sun or a nice dinner.
6. Know how to support your students
One of the biggest challenges for us at this time can be dealing with student stress on top of our own. Online resources such as those at mind.co.uk and youngminds.org.uk can provide helpful information about the problems young people face.
Struggling students can be directed to counselling services like getconnected.org.uk or childline.org.uk. If your school has the option, scheduling a student workshop or teacher CPD session with an outside organisation like pixellearning.org can boost confidence in supporting learner well-being.
7. Know where to get help for yourself
If you need someone to talk to, the Education Support Partnership (formerly Teacher Support Network) offers 24/7 support on 08000562561. Their partner site, bewellteachwell.org.uk has useful advice on a range of key issues for teachers. Remember that friends and family are also there to support you.
Keep these tips in mind and try to maintain a sense of perspective. You will probably have to go through the exam period many times in your career, affecting the lives of hundreds of students. The better we take care of our own emotional needs, the better we can take care of theirs.
Pixel Learning’s ThinkWell workshop initiative was launched in Dunraven School, London. Dunraven School is part of the SSAT network – find out more about membership here.