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exams – not the best time in school

Posted by willkay on October 25, 2011

We are fully into exam week now. This is not the best of week’s for students or teachers. There is a lot of pressure on the students. The parents demand good grades, the teachers demand good grades, their peers are watching them closely. The focus of the students falls totally onto the exam. Nothing else matters. In the sixth grade, I try to juggle the timetable round so that the students sit their day’s exam as close to first thing in the morning as possible. This morning, rather than wait until 1pm when they had Miss Claudia, I set the Spanish exam in my maths lesson. This is good for the children. It is when they are at their most alert and ready – assuming they all had a good breakfast!

[Although this is probably a good time to mention breakfast! Breakfast, for a child, is the most important meal of the day. They haven’t eaten all night, they are about to go into school and work for 3/4 hours before their first break. On some days they have PE in the morning, which will burn off a lot of “fuel”. Breakfast is really important. And, while I’m here, the second most important thing in a child’s life is sleep. It is while a child sleeps that they make sense of all the information that they have been bombarded with throughout the day. A sixth grade student should be winding down by 8:30 and heading to bed by 9. The more hours sleep they get, the better they will understand the days proceedings.]

Unfortunately, once the students have sat the exam, they tend to “explode”. The pressure is off, and they need the stress relief. Their next target is tomorrow’s exam, and they have very little interest in anything else. This makes it very hard to actually teach. The children aren’t receptive to new information, all they are concerned with is, “is it in the exam?” If it isn’t, then they aren’t interested. And, of course, it isn’t in the exam. At this point in the proceedings the exams have been written, the lessons have been taught. It becomes, for the teacher, a very difficult period of time, where he has to make sure that the students still stay focused, but doesn’t over do the pressure.

Then there is the returned exam moment: the joy of a good grade, the disappointment of a bad grade. And, of course, it is how the student reacts to these two things. As a teacher you always hope that a good grade inspires the student to maintain the average, push for higher grades. But sometimes, because students are children, it can lead to over-confidence and an air of “been there, done that, let’s relax“. As a teacher you hope that a bad grade will inspire the student to greater heights. Will make them study harder, will focus their energy. However, sometimes it can cause an implosion. The student sees him/herself as a failure and gives up. And so it becomes a very fine line for the teacher to tread. Handing back exams still means you have to inspire and motivate. For some studetns you have to encourage, for others you have to keep them on track.

The exam period can be a difficult one in school.

After the students sat the Spanish exam I went through the maths exam. Ten pupils managed to score over 9.0, and four of those students managed to score 10. So, there were a lot of happy people in the classroom. Unfortunately, there were some students who did not achieve what they had set out to get, and there were some students who had made mistakes that they hadn’t foreseen. Some had failed to simplify fractions, some had done addition when the question asked for subtraction, and some had turned multiplications upside down. Often, those who had made the mistakes were the ones who had “handed their exam in early“.  It appears that no matter how often I mention that “there are no marks for finishing, check your work carefully“, there are always those students who want to wash their hands of the exam, and just move on. But, this is a school. A place to learn. Hopefully, they will learn, and it will all be alright in the end.

The rest of the day was spent in yoga, PE, history, and reviewing for the English exam. Tomorrow there will be two exams: English and History. At first, the history exam was supposed to be next Thursday. However, we thought (Miss Claudia, Miss Esther, and I) that doing a review on Monday (in costume), going on a field trip on Tuesday, having a day off on W*dnesd*y, wouldn’t be the best preparation for an exam. So, we decided that putting on tomorrow would be better. We realise that this will mean two exams in one day, however Miss Esther and I are not convinced that there is a lot of studying to be done (or *is* done) for the English exam. This means that the students’ calendar would be free to study history.


  • English: exam
  • History: exam
  • Read: 20 minutes each day
  • Book: to read for when you finish your exam

2 Responses to “exams – not the best time in school”

  1. Mr. Kay, I see this blog is almost as long a some of mine! Exams……mmmmm. I found myself in the same predicament a few days ago. I was tested on my massage skills, knowledge, anatomy, etc., and although I did not get a perfect 10, as I wanted and expected; I do realize it was my own fault for not studying as hard as I should have done. This usually happens, I now remember loooong time ago, when I was a student myself.
    However, I am not going to put pressure on myself, but I sure do you do put pressure on YOUR students, they are only 12 yrs,. old! For heaven’s sake!
    I am almost an old foggy myself, and I did say ALMOST.

  2. diana t said

    mr kay on the 4 paragraph on the 3 line you wrote studetns. When it supposed to be students.

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