Mixture of mocks and waiting round this week already – writing just ahead of Wednesday to free up my time for coursework tomorrow. Not feeling my most wordy… inadvertently and cheerily told two different people to enjoy their weekend on my way home today. Wishful thinking?
Our exam seating arrangements are such that you’re thrown together with people from your primary school who you haven’t spoken to for the best part of 5 years. It’s nice to chat and to mix, since the last time you did you were a whole different you. Speaking has given me a chance to reflect between periods of hard work. Interesting to see what changes and what has never changed one bit. Seeing multiple sides to everything both helps and hinders. It’s possible to be too introspective and brood over things too much, but I’m more at peace in doing so. Thinking fixes a lot more problems than it makes. Things evolve so quickly. Sometimes I used to wonder if everything was changing or if it was simply a matter of seeing things through “less naïve eyes”. I’m sure the answer is both.
Slightly after midway through Y11, my twelfth year of formal education (including foundation stages). Support has been plentiful for the most part, even if it’s taken some looking for. I wouldn’t like to rule anything out altogether, but it is increasingly likely I’ll be moving on from school in the summer for personal as well as academic reasons. The most important thing is feeling like it’s easy to hold your values and comfortably interact with your surroundings. Once you’ve recognised what you’re looking for, it isn’t too idealistic to aim to be in that position. Ultimately, the academic year is made up of four things: grades, revision, friends and finding your feet.
We’ve been one of the years to be mixed under the new reform. Everyone is in agreement that it’s a far from perfect situation. We set off in Key Stage 3 learning without feeling like it was for a test. It probably was, somewhere, but we weren’t made aware of it. Not like lower secondary school students are now. I used to like English for all the descriptive writing we used to do. There were subject specialists for every lesson in excess. There were actual departments that worked as a team. It was mainly about having fun, and everything was just a little bit more toned down.
Core subjects have been eased into the specifications. It is harder now than it was before but in a manageable way. Poems can be learned. Harder algebraic notation and graph functions can be practised. There’s a shared sense of motoring through and knowing the ways to do well, even if it takes effort to succeed on an individual level.
The same can’t be said for the subjects studied by many but aren’t a national requirement. It dawned on a few of us this afternoon over a textbook in a substitute lesson: it isn’t the difficulty of the content, more that there are gaps in knowledge left simply under the assumption that at some point, somewhere, in some classroom, we’ve gone over it before. Crater-sized gaps. Stuff that we perhaps could have to know prior to 7 weeks before the first exam. Building blocks of knowledge for most 6 mark questions (grade droppers as we jokingly term them). Along with the realisation comes a sense of responsibility quite gratuitous — what about people that haven’t realised all the work there is to do? How is it remotely fair? It is not a matter of revision, it is a matter of self-teaching. One of my friends grimly recognised that this statement alone will only become more and more obvious as we near May. Identifying it as an issue at least equates to some degree of preparation for us though.
Many a time have I fallen into the trap of thinking this is life determining — obviously it’s not. No grade is the be all and end all, but it’s nice to have your many classroom hours validated and be rewarded. On the whole I’ve been very well prepared. Lots of resources and offers of support sessions. We can’t forget how lucky we are to live in a day where there’s abundant videos on YouTube, apps, podcasts and revision tools. The internet literally saves lives. Definitely the lives of students anyway!
I would much rather learn than revise. It’s so much more engaging to listen to someone than to write things out yourself. Maybe this is laziness. The wonderful gracemaryxx is absolutely ace at motivating herself to study. I read her GCSE related blogs at the start of the academic year, thinking I would too try and start around the February holidays like she did. I never found the time though I wanted to. In fairness, I had been on a voluntary placement as multi sports coach at a half term activity camp for 4-12s and so was pretty tied up all week. My DBS is coming through in the next few days and I’ll be undertaking a paid role in Easter, which is very exciting! Doesn’t help in terms of studying but you cannot be stressed or miserable around children — it is not physically possible — and so the crazy atmosphere will surely do more good than harm.
I resent doing “homework” at this point. It isn’t a lack of motivation or defiance on purpose, it’s just I’d much rather independently revise based on the areas I’d like to focus on. Juggling deadlines is frustrating when you see no real benefit from the tasks assigned to you. Many others I’ve spoken to are (reassuringly) feeling the same way.
A few of us interested in doing the same A levels are trying to work together to devise a timetable of sorts, consisting of activities tailored to us and what we think might help. This is going to involve FaceTime and phone calls and non-trivial texting and maybe even the occasional meet up. Getting together in person often isn’t productive but communicating in other ways can be. We’ve found it helps just to talk key ideas through and to question the material in textbooks. The ‘why’ behind lots of principles in Science remains unknown, but it helps to wonder and quiz it right down to the minutiae. Question question question.
Post-It notes round the house is a good idea I’ve heard shared by quite a few, under the thinking you will subconsciously take in the information written down. Personally it doesn’t do much — I get so used to them being there that I will ignore or read and quickly forget. It really is all down to preference. Some say it’s the bright colours that help as they stimulate memory. It really does just depend.
Writing content of units on single pieces of paper and abridging it a bit helps. Takes away from how daunting a huge textbook can be and makes it slightly more accessible. If it’s less of a chore, I will happily double the amount of time I spend on work. The minute it starts to become overwhelming is the same minute information stops going in. There’s no point sitting in front of books if it isn’t effective study.
Episodes of counterproductive revising contribute massively to burnout. The most important thing is finding something that works and then doing it, be it past papers or flashcards or anything else. I learnt the hard way last year that forcing yourself to do it in one single way just because it’s been recommended is not conducive to success.
I’ve been insanely lucky to meet so many lovely people. 360 in my cohort has been lots of faces and names and personalities to mingle with. People change and relationships change. Some people you keep from the start, whilst others are only ever meant to be temporary.
Sometimes settling down in a group has been a struggle — I’ve often shifted from set group to set group and largely found the same thing each time. Put people from all walks of life in certain groups and it becomes quite cliquey. I feel very much like high school settings capitalise on this. Talking behind backs happens inevitably as kids are in such close proximity to each other AND get tasked with growing up too. Sitting out on fields has never been my activity of choice. Nor has walking round after dark. A good couple of years ago I made a real effort to go out when everyone else did, but this confirmed what I already felt. Not for a second is it about believing I’m elevated or trying to take the moral high ground — definitely not. It’s just the mere idea of those “activities” is at very best boring to me. All the worse when cheap alcohol and drugs were brought in. Just not my scene – I like bed at ten and socialising in a more meaningful way. It might well be excluding myself or missing out on age-related fun, but at present I am more than okay doing what I do.
Probably quite selective, but I gravitate towards those that I like. So does everyone. I’ll happily spend hours with people I see potential or likeness in and willingly invest all emotional energy. This has resulted in little clusters of friends here and there and all quite sporadic in terms of circles and groups. As far as I’m concerned, this is not a problem. Friendship is a two way thing and fine as long as you and the other person radiate the same feelings about it. Everybody at the end of school tends to leave with only a couple of people they were close with at the start. This is true for me too. These friendships are the ones that last, the people who set cottage pie on fire in Food DT with you in Y7 right up to glueing the pieces back together and heaving you through the testing exam weeks.
Finding your feet:
Thisis easily the most fundamental of the four. You don’t get a rewind button on life and can’t put yourself back in school, whether you’d like to or not.
You start in Y7 and leave in Y11 or 13 changed. For the better or worse, but changed all the same. It’s where you spend most of your time and so events that happen inevitably shape you into who you were going to become all along.
Though I was (enthusiastically) the first to write up my personal statement and send off my UCAS application, I don’t take for granted the times that I have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy. School is about grades and character shaping and, cliché as it is to say, mindset really determines how this treats you. I focus on the good as much as possible and the moment I’m sad is because someone or something has acted in an unjust way. Finding your feet is also about examining what you tolerate and working out what you think. You can’t go on if you don’t know this about yourself.
By the time you approach the end of Y11, you’ve often semi found your feet. The time rolls round unceremoniously and you leave, move on and redo the whole process. All revolves around the main reason this blog was started — to prove everything is all connected to learning.
I’m grateful for everyone that injects the words of wisdom and smiles in between.