Friday, 21 December 2012


The pressures and stresses of this time of year can be extraordinarily hard to cope with. I'm not talking about Christmas this time, but the nerve-racking period Year 12 students from around Australia experience each year waiting for their results to appear in the mail. I don't actually remember the intense pressure of sitting my final exams, knowing that these results could mean my future. I've probably blocked it out. I didn't really know what I wanted to do beyond High School. I knew it would be some kind of teaching. Back in the late 1980's, anyone could be accepted into a teaching degree. You didn't need exceptional grades and in some cases it was a second or third choice for many students who didn't get their first or second university preference in Law or Accounting. 

But in recent years, it seems that so much emphasis is placed on excellent results. Don't get me wrong - I think it's a wonderful thing that to be accepted into a university degree in education you need to be able to demonstrate a very high level of skill - but there are still some students, and families, that place so much anxiety and importance on producing the perfect result. 

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, a passionate child and adolescent psychologist, writes about surviving end of year results. I've always told my students - this is not the be-all end-all. There are options. There are other pathways to get where you want.

Recently, I've been stunned by the pressure my little 11 year old, Ella, has been under as Year 5 comes to a close. The school had encouraged the 5ers to apply for senior school leadership positions. Ella does not need encouragement for these sort of things. As soon as she heard of the positions, she set about writing drafts, rewriting, editing, recording, rewriting again, her formal application and speeches for School Captain and House Captain. I wish she could show this kind of tenacity in helping out around the house. She's a driven, ambitious girl and I admire her determination and courage. 

Her application submitted, her speech delivered, her wait began. Every day we had to hear of how exciting it would be to get a captain role and how her friends say she'll get one for sure. The girls threw these comments to each other daily - Oh my God, you'll soooo get captain for sure. Oh my God, no! You're so there! There were 5 positions for girls up for grabs and practically every Year 5 girl going for them. Someone - no, most of them - will miss out. Some will be disappointed and will have a very sudden lesson in resilience. To help the kids who missed out, roles have been created so that every Year 6 will have a special responsibility. No one will lose. So much like real life.  

My Ella-Bella
Sleepless nights and tummy aches past, the school announced the leadership positions yesterday. I had a nervous day wondering what kind of child will return home from school. I had worded her up in the morning before she left, trying desperately not to get her hopes up and to also be confident in herself. To accept defeat with maturity and integrity. To accept success with modesty and humility. To take deep breathes. This is Year 5. I'm hoping by the time she reaches the end of her secondary school years she has developed the resilience and skills to cope with these anxieties. I know I still haven't.

Well done, Ella. I'm very proud of you.

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