A Level results day 2018.
The day I ended my mini summer digital detox and reconnected with the outside world.
You see although I was on my summer holidays in France, and indeed on a career break, my thoughts were still in school. My thoughts were with the students, who until recently, I had spent more than half my working week with.
I knew my niece had done superbly, I knew the department’s stats were impressive – colleagues had texted me to let me know the data. But what about the individuals behind these figures? Did everyone get the grades their hard work deserved? Did they meet the requirements to go to the university they wished to? Were they pleased with how they’d done? Sad? Disappointed? Happy?
Every year there are many teens who peak at the right time – during the exam weeks. They get the questions they want on the exam papers, do as well as they wanted, if not better. They exceed expectations. The stars align for them.
And sometimes there are those who, for whatever reason, the stars don’t align for. Their potential is obvious to all around them but it does not come across on those pieces of paper they hand in at the end of the exam.
They have a bad day. Maybe they’re just not quite on form, maybe the questions don’t quite work out for them, maybe they make a mistake due to the pressure.
For whatever reason they don’t quite pull it off. They don’t achieve the results that they so very much deserve.
On these occasions I am reminded of my own A Level results day.
Another student had been the standout historian for two years.
He was better read than the rest of us.
He made consistently more intelligent contributions to discussions than the rest of us.
He was more knowledgeable than the rest of us.
His essays were better than ours.
And yet he achieved a B grade when some of us scraped the top grade. His work over the two years was clearly at an A grade standard (these were the days before A*s) and yet, for whatever reason, he couldn’t show this during the exams.
This happens more often than it should.
The exam system is a blunt instrument and we all do well, parents, teachers and young people, to remember this.
That’s not to take away from all those student who have done well. But it is a recognition that sometimes, those who make the most nuanced and perceptive contributions to class discussions don’t always get the grade that they deserve.
Rightly or wrongly parents and teachers put so much emphasis on examination results these days that it can feel like the ‘be all and end all’.
However, it is important to remember that we are all more than the collection of letters (or indeed numbers from this summer onwards for GCSEs) which we are given at the end of our school career.
After all, as I was reminded recently, it is the experience of learning that is much more important than the outcome on one given day. It is someone’s characteristics – their kindness, commitment, dedication, honesty, integrity, outlook on life, and spirit which marks them out as exceptional human beings, NOT their grades.
So maybe last week someone you know didn’t quite achieve the grades they hoped for, or maybe this may be the case this week with GCSE results day looming.
If so, please do remind them that we are all much more than our exam results.