Christine Kempell looks back at her school exams through rose-tinted glasses
‘The school years are the best years of your life’. How many times did you hear those words uttered by bespectacled relatives when you were growing up? I remember feeling pretty annoyed at these sweeping proclamations of the supposed fun I was meant to be gleaning from institutional education, while also feeling slightly anxious for the future. If this was as good as it got, then what was the rest of my life going to be like?
Hindsight is a weird and wonderful thing, and while I don’t think my school years were overly traumatic or riots of raucous fun, so nothing particularly memorable, I am now looking back on those years through my rose tinted reading specs and thinking that, yes, they were darn good. So it beats me that my kids don’t agree that revising, taking exams and the anticipation of results, then the relief, joy or even the shared tears and disappointments are something to relish, to savour and to thoroughly enjoy.
We are right in the middle of exam season, and kids all over the world are hunched over their papers, sat in silence at their desks while invigilators peer at them for signs of weakness, or are holed up in their bedrooms surrounded by giant tomes cramming for the next day’s test. At least in the UAE we are blessed with a good climate most of the year, and sitting upstairs swotting while the sun shines doesn’t fill youngsters who live here with a sense of loathing. The sun only ever shone in the UK during the run up to the exams, when we where banished to our box rooms, and seemed to stop as soon as the last exam was sat. That was the one thing I didn’t like about revising during the warmer months, as sunshine was a precious commodity and not something to be wasted. The same does not apply here. At this time of year it’s already too hot to squint into the pages of textbooks, trying to get to grips with Pythagoras’s theorem, or the pride of Mr Darcy whilst simultaneously working on a tan, so they may as well be studying in their air-conditioned wombs for hours on end. But just try telling that to your little darlings, and see what reaction you get!
The pressure children are under during this time cannot be underestimated, and the stress statistics are staggering for all ages undertaking exams. This pressure is not relieved in any way by parents and teachers themselves constantly telling them that the results they get in the important exams will affect the rest of their lives. That’s a pretty dramatic statement for a teenager to handle. We all want our kids to do the best that they can but not to the detriment of their health. However, I have found that making comments like ‘If you think this is stressful, wait till you get a real job’ don’t seem to soothe situation or help in any way. Don’t forget it’s a stressful time for us parents too, especially as we try to make sense of the intensely confusing examination timetables, and my reoccurring dream now is of my daughter missing a test because I forgot to write it on the calendar.
It’s all about reaching for the A stars these days, and I don’t want to sound like an annoying Auntie when I say that in my day, they were few and far between, hence exams were harder, but they were, so there. I’ll be proud as punch if the stars are shining for my daughter in August on results day, although I will refrain from posting and boasting any results on Facebook, as that sort of posturing is vulgar and shows a lack of sensitivity to those who won’t have done as well as they wanted. I just hope and pray we fall into the first category and not the second, and there will be thousands of other parents with similar prayers to mine.
So to everyone sitting exams this summer, good luck, do your absolute best, don’t miss any, keep calm, and remember to enjoy them. After all, these are the best days of your lives. I say that as one looking back through my rose tinted reading specs, which also recall long hot summers in Pembrokeshire, when all I can remember were blue skies and sunshine. I’m not sure how reliable these specs are. Maybe I should get a new prescription.