School exams. Today I was working in a secondary school, overseeing young people taking their year eleven exams. Watching their industriousness, some working right up to the last ten seconds. Others had closed their papers after a few minutes and then sat with their heads on the desk, waiting for the time to pass until they were allowed to leave. Several thoughts occurred, my own exam history and how exams, however useful, do not serve everyone.

I remember one mock exam that I sat in winter time in our school gym. My secondary school was based over several buildings on a woodland site. Each of these buildings was massive mansion type places will wonderful names such as ‘Inglewood’ and ‘The Lodge’. But back to the gym, it was large, it had clearly been built a very long time ago and it was freezing. I remember coming out of exams one morning, with fingers that were so cold they were verging on the purple end of the spectrum. I asked if we could wear our coats for the afternoon and was told no. The person who monitored our exam that afternoon (in the days were there was one person overseeing everyone, and they weren’t really looking, they seemed to knit or read books) left the exam room and came back in wearing a coat. This is likely a good point that illustrates all failings of my secondary school. The injustice of a teacher sitting there all toasty whilst I feared for the long-term future of my fine motor skills was a hard one to bear. The second memory of exams in the gym involved me kicking a copy of Pride and Prejudice from the gym to the front gate. The book was unscathed. My school was a scary place.

I did well with my exams, but not everyone does, and how does that link to how a person feels about themselves? For the people working diligently, as I did, they likely left the exam hall, breathed in deep, pondered the questions that they struggled with, then consulted their exam timetable to work out what to revise for next. But for the others, whether they have revised or not, that couldn’t answer the questions, how does it feel to sit in a room for hours with a paper on your desk that reminds you of everything that you don’t know?

Sometimes that is how I feel about things in my life that I struggle with. I know all the theory about how to complete a task, but when face with the actuality of engaging with it, I freeze up, find excuses not to. I guess this could be a confidence issue or a fear of failure or success. I suppose there are many explanations, but maybe not trusting in my own ability rates highest.

Map Point. What am I really good at?

 

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