My Thoughts on the Education System | Collab with Debbie!

Along with many other people in the UK, I’m very lucky to have a good education. However, there are still a lot of problems with the education system that those who don’t experience are quick to dismiss. In a collab with Debbie – you can read her post on her blog – we’re going to write about the issues that are closest to us.

For me, the transition from GCSEs to A-Levels was particularly difficult, an opinion shared with a lot of people in my year and the year below. With the transfer from “less challenging” GCSEs to “more challenging” A-Levels, most teachers and students alike were struggling. We had no idea what was really expected of us as in many subjects, there were either very few or no past papers at all. Those who took GCSEs recently or are going to take them soon will have had a similar problem. We were told to learn independently, to “go beyond” the subject but GCSEs, or pre-GCSEs, hadn’t shown us how to do that. It felt like we were jumping in at the deep end of a swimming pool with no markings as to how deep it was. There’s this idea that figuring out your own independent learning style is all part of the process of learning but we were expected to do that, not having done that before; we were expected to learn so much content, apply it in ways we’d never done before, all whilst battling our own anxieties and personal pressures. If we couldn’t keep up; if we learned in a different way or if our concepts of success didn’t match up to the exam board’s or government’s or the vague “threat” of universities or employers, it felt like a failure.

It’s not all to do with the last 4-5 years of schooling, in that expectations of “how we should learn” go right back to the start. We’re told what books would best suit us – you can read more about that in this post by Izzy – given “advice” on careers based on predicted grades and behaviour, and examined from such a young age that the constant banner of success is waved over people’s heads and those who don’t achieve that are automatically labelled by teachers and others as not being “academic”, when academia isn’t the only way that someone can live a life which makes them happy. I’m making massive generalisations here but often, the way in which we learn is subject to these same generalisations. People are crammed into smaller boxes of 1-9 or A-G, into “smart” or “not smart”, into “likes to read so should be good at this” or “likes Maths so should go into this profession”. That’s not even touching on the idea of “one learning style fits all”, which restricts so many people.

Blaming “the school” as a whole would be counter-productive and wouldn’t solve any problems as a lot of the time, it’s a student’s willingness to learn – or lack of it – that stops people from learning. However, people are too quick to entirely blame students’ “laziness” for the difficulties that they face. How can it be an individual’s fault if they’re never given encouragement by teachers, never shown a way to learn that fits them and never shown that their aspirations don’t have to fall in line with the academic, English-Maths-Science expectations that are pushed so forcefully onto everyone so that they can “be successful?” With the new system of GCSEs and A-Levels, it’s even harder to achieve the top grades and so those who don’t work in the way the exam boards want are more likely to feel unhappy and so less likely to work as productively.

Most people work in different ways to each other. Some prefer group work and some prefer individual study; some need to revise in one session whereas others need to spread their revision out; some need support from teachers and their friends whereas others find that support within themselves or in other places. I don’t feel as if enough support or emphasis, on the whole, is given to those individual learning styles – it would be incredibly difficult to cater to everyone’s needs when in a large group of students but it’s too often assumed that everyone can work in exactly the same style. The good thing about A-Levels is that much more support is given by teachers as they have more time to do this but by the time A-Levels come around, it can be difficult for some people to know that they can get support if they haven’t had it before. In GCSEs and before that, those that received a lot of one-to-one or individualised support from teachers most often come from fee-paying schools. There are many exceptions but teachers in an average state school don’t usually have enough time to help the students that need it most.

With coursework disappearing and linear subjects being prioritised, there’s a huge importance given to exams. Yes, this system worked better for me in some ways but not in others and for a lot of people, examined subjects won’t be the best way to help them learn. SEN (Special Educational Needs) funding, which directly affects me and people I know, is being cut; resources aren’t being provided for SEN students in education but because of the constant pressure to get better grades, to improve your chances of getting into university, thoughts are being focused more on the students who attain more 9s or A*s. The problems with SEN deserve a whole other post and I’m not sure I’d even be the best person to write about them.

There are positives to the current education system, of course. More vocational courses are being offered at colleges; apprenticeships are being encouraged more widely and different learning styles are slowly being taken into account. Saying that, this is only the start and more needs to be done. Performing and visual arts subjects have been dropped from the curriculum of some schools which restricts those who are more creative from expressing themselves. People need to become more aware that not everything should be based on academic results and improvement of exam achievements doesn’t always mean improvement of people’s lives.

What do you think about the education system and how people learn? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to check out Debbie’s post! It was amazing to collab with her and to get my (complicated and somewhat ranty) thoughts out!

Love from Elm πŸ™‚

It’s Okay to be Nervous for Results’ Day

2 years of work, they said.

“You’ve done it!” they shouted, once the last question was finished; you sighed in relief and shook from the knowledge that you’d finished the most difficult exams you’d done so far. That last signing of your name, writing the letters slowly, felt like freedom. 23 of them, and for all your tears at the ones that didn’t go so well, you did it.

And then, you waited. The dread mounted, spiralling, only in the back of your mind; so many other things screamed at you to “Think about me! And me, what about me!” so that the fear only surfaced a few days before. That’s what happens when you block things out.

It’s Result’s Day tomorrow. TOMORROW.

Now I’m thinking about it, I wish I’d done more. If I’d revised so much more, worked harder, realised that my stupid problems were insigmificant, I could have put more effort in. They told me I did my best, that I couldn’t have done more – “You worked SO hard, Elm!” But do I believe them? Only in one corner of my mind.

After this, I’m changing my outlook. I’ll start preparing for A-Levels early, looking over everything after my classes, so that I KNOW where I stand with my work. I’d only wished I’d done that for GCSE.

I’ll try not to dwell on negatives. As much as I KNOW there’s nothing that I, nor anyone else, can do to change the results now, it doesn’t stop me from worrying. I know that I’ll be a nervous wreck tomorrow, crying or similar, before and after the results. For my own piece of mind, I’ll run through what may happen.

I’m planning to wake at 7, and have a shower to feel vaguely more human. Waking up early means that I can mentally prepare myself for the day. Results come in at 10 for our school, but because I live 45 minutes away, I’m leaving the house at 9:ae. #EarlyBird Yaaaaay, I’ll be in the car and totally freaking out! Sounds like fun…

Our school hasn’t told us much. We have to queue up outside (the hall?) and walk in, and get our results in an envelope. We open them, read them, and watch our lives shatter – err, I mean, act very calm about it all. Yeah.

My mum’s bringing me, and so she has to read the results out. I wish they could have it in Braille, but they only get them that morning so it’s not possible. God, I can’t stand that someone has to read them to me; I’d rather be by myself, able to break down if necessary. I’ll hear how well I did by her voice as she says the subject’s name, and I don’t want that. I want to read them on my own terms; they’re MY results. Wow, that makes me sound like a petulent child.

I have no idea when my friends are getting theirs. Some are on holiday – Wren, Cedar, a few others, but Red, Odd and Pine will all be there at some point throughout the day. Even if I’d love to see them, I don’t know if that’ll be possible; Pine invited me to a picnic, but I don’t think I’d be emotionally able to cope with that. That’s sad, because people who I wouldn’t usually speak to would be there.

Apparently, and in Red’s words, there’s a “piss-up party” that starts at 7:cj. With me being me, I don’t know if I want to go to it. I might as well, but I’m nervous, and what if people don’t want me there?! I’m not exactly the get drunk smoke and stay up until 2 AM type, though I may end up proving myself wrong. Not about the smoking, because I have a special dislike for cigarettes. I’d have to depend on Red to get me around, and I don’t want to make him do that.

Oh shit, it’s just sinking in that I’m GETTING MY RESULTS. I keep on having moments where I experience utter terror, where my blood feels like it’s freezing to ice in my veins, and I second guess everything I’ve thought about how well I did.

Because really, I don’t think I did as well as I could have. Yes, I may say that a lot, but with uncertainty creefing like in a persistent fog, I’m becoming more and more sure that I never took those exams seriously. I’ve had several nightmares where I’ve failed one exam or another, the worst one being where I dreampt that I got a D in my Maths exam. Hopefully, I’ll do alright, and prove to myself that I can actually do something. Positive attitude, Elm! POSITIVITY!

My friends tell me that I’ll do great – you all have – and I’ll try and have faith in you. It’s the least I can do, to stay as optimistic as I can.

They are just insignificant letters, on one piece of paper. I’m just one student among hundreds of thousands. GCSEs aren’t important when you think about it; A-Levels are the ones that truly matter. That doesn’t stop me from worrying, clenching my hands into fists, and trawling through Twitter to find out if everyone else is terrified, too.

Good luck, guys. For all my negativity, I just want to tell you one thing.

Stay positive, as much as you can. We haven’t got long to go, until we know and until the wait is over. You have so many people around you that understand, that are JUST as scared as you are.

Last year, some of my blogging friends were getting their results. I fully understand what they were going through, how they felt when they wrote their posts about their fear.

You are going to do amazingly. I say that, no matter what result you get, because the fact that you got through those exams in the first place shows your strength. There are ALWAYS alternative pathways if you didn’t get what you wanted, but once you get those results, DO NOT beat yourself up.

It’s okay. People are always going to support you, because we know what it’s like.

I could have spent this entire post encouraging you, telling you all of these things, but that seems fake to me. I needed to show the raw, terrified side of me, because it’s part of who I am. You needed to know that you’re not alone, that every single person is allowed to show these emotions.

I’ll be making a few calls on Results Day, perhaps to some Internet friends too. If you want to skype that day, just let me know; if you need to talk about how you feel after getting them, I’m here.

We’ll be alright.

From Elm πŸ™‚

FREEEEDOMMM!!!

GUESS WHO’s FREE?
Yeah that’s right, it’s ME,
Done the last of 23,
And now I can’t be bothered to continue the rhyme – OH WAIT I’M SO HAPPY!

That was the worst poem song thing I have ever heard or written. Let me cringe in a corner, or NAHH, I’m just gonna celebrate and run round my house screaming BECAUSE I FINISHED MY EXAMS!!!!

The last one was physics – well, the last two – and though the first one went pretty badly, the second was a godsend and I wanted to hug it. When I was done, it didn’t feel real: in fact, it still doesn’t. I was shaking when I got out of that room and felt slightly confused. But IT’s OVER!

I’m really REALLY proud of myself because I have done 23 exams, and I’ve never worked this hard or tried so much in my life. True, I could have done more, but isn’t that true for anything? I know that I did my best, and even when I couldn’t do something, I didn’t totally give up. I gave all my exams the best I could, even that chemistry piece of shit one.

Oh my god, it’s actually hitting me that I’m no longer a GCSE student. I won’t be sitting exams like that for a year – for my AS exams or rather mocks because they don’t count for anything any more. I remember when I had just started, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to get through it. The half term was the only thing getting me through, and when that disappeared, I hung on to some messed up form of determination to keep going through the exams.

It sounds like I’ve done something phenominal. I haven’t, not really; for me, it was an achievement. I did something I’d been dreading ever since secondary school started. I FINISHED MY GCSEs, all of them.

No more physics. No more biology, chemistry, maths, RE, sociology. Or music – that’s the one that’s really sad. God, that’s weird – it’s almost like closing a door, and I don’t like doing that. I’m really nervous of what the future holds, but I might as well live.

My summer is SO long, this year. It starts now, right through to September, when usually it’s just 6 weeks. I have so many plans for it!

First of all, I’m collecting loads of post ideas. Soon, I’m going to do a “summer bucket list!” that will make me cringe uncontrollably, and I need to do some guest posts. This summer, I’m really going to focus a lot on my blog, and you guys too. I’ve missed you so much, and now I can FINALLY relax and actually talk to internet friends properly!

I’m going to Italy on 28 July for a few days (about 8-10 I think) and then I’m buggering off to Thailand for two weeks. I won’t be able to blog much then, but shhhh I won’t think about that.

Wow. I’m free! Sorry, I’m just feeling pretty weird right now. It’s going to be strange, not waking up tomorrow and asking myself what I have to worry about, or which exams I have, what revision I NEED to do or stressing out insanely. It feels like a huge cloud’s been lifted off my shoulders, because exams took a lot out of me.

As well as that, I’m going to be posting a lot about my bullshit “personal life”. Not sure why I’m clarifying that, but I haven’t been doing really personal posts recently and if you’ve come to my blog in the last few weeks, you won’t know that I’m basically known for screaming my life onto a screen, trying not to offend the real life people that occasionally read this shit. Oh well! Just be prepared for me saying how bored/upset/confused I am on a regular basis.

A lot of people will be finished with GCSEs too, but I know further maths and product design (and some science boards) are still going. You’re going to do amazingly – remember not to stress. You’re nearly there. You’ve done most of them, and you can do the rest.

To those who have finished, all I can say is well done. You’re going to do so great, and see? You COULD do it. Don’t doubt yourself, and just enjoy yourself with the summer we have.

Ahhh I am feeling so so positive. I don’t really know what to do now. Any ideas?

Merci for reading all of that! WOAH I’m using exclamation marks a lot; it’s disconcerting.

From Elm πŸ™‚

Nearly There

I have 2 exams left.

2.

Remember when I had 23, and when it was 19 days away and I was panicking? Yeah, me too.

I’ll save all the “I’m SO RELIEVED”, and “YAAAAYYYY FREEDOM!” posts until after they’re done. Maybe posting this will make the anticipation build and ultimately make me more nervous, but I’m a total rebel and don’t play by any rules okay that’s a complete lie.

Unfortunately, my chemistry exam – the second one out of two – today went really badly. I’m not even just saying that; I feel sick whenever I think about it because I could barely answer the questions (and I felt confident at the beginning, as well). People found it easier, which makes me feel terrified for my chances. WHOOPS. Ah well.

I’m honestly quite upset about that. It was the first exam where my horror at not understanding something DIRECTLY affected how I approached the paper. With the first maths paper, it was alright because I tried to be logical. In chemistry, it was panic panic panic and I felt that awful fog descending where I wanted to scream and I thought that I was a total failure. It was a little bit of a shock, as it’s been a long time since I’ve felt so incredibly negative about an exam. For the others, I haven’t let myself feel terrible when I KNEW I’d got something wrong, partly down to the fact that I realised that if I broke then, I wouldn’t be able to stop but also because I wanted – and still do – to stay as positive as possible.

That’s mostly dissipated, but there’s still a lingering horror that I’ve majorly screwed myself over. Though I can’t do anything about it now, it doesn’t stop me from worrying. Also, it doesn’t help when I feel like my worries are insignificant because I don’t need that at the moment.

The only two I have left are physics. Like Chemistry, I’m dreading them – the chemistry has knocked my confidence a LOT, but I should be alright? Tomorrow is going to be intense revision like you’ve never (and I’ve never) seen, and I’m going to shut myself away when I’m not in school doing revision sessions. So basically hermit Elm to the not rescue because she won’t be talking to anyone.

Yeah, physics is scaring me. There’s a lot I don’t understand, and I want to beat my head against the wall several times, but I’m going to give myself a break for tonight. Right now, it’s about 9:30 so I can’t do anything anyway without feeling panicky and the information floating through my brain. Y’know moments, and magnetic fields and stars – AHHH I CAN’T!!!!

God, I can’t wait until it’s all over. The only thing that’s getting me through it is the thought that in two days, I’ll be free.

It’s strange; I’ve been talking to Ash quite a bit over the last, well, three days? ALSO before you scream at me, if you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about and you wonder why the fuck I’m messaging ASH, read

The Only Exam I’ll Write about Before the End

I SHOULD be revising for biology and music tomorrow, but hahaaahaaa!!!

I’ve made a point NOT to write about any specific exam and I won’t until they all finish, but I wanted to make an exception for this. And what’s “this”? My Maths exam, which I had today.

I don’t like to dwell on exams. It makes me overthink things way too much. Saying that, on my personal twitter I’ve got involved in the banter – using #aqabiology and #edexcelmaths which makes my life. On the blog, I haven’t talked about it because it’ll put SO much pressure on me. Maths, though, is somewhat significant.

In terms of learning, I’ve always not been confident with maths, and that’s because of the diagrams. Here comes the whole sob story: if you don’t know, I’m blind. I wish it wasn’t like this, but because of it, I find it more difficult to orientate myself around, and drawing graphs is a bit difficult and takes an age.

I have double time, so 3 and a half hours, because of all that blindy shit. A lot of people don’t get it and ask me why I should get so much, and I don’t know how to explain. It just takes me a lot longer to draw and construct and know which measurements correspond to which side on a shape, for example. So there was me, from 8:30 to 12:30 (an extra half hour for rests, printing and then signing) in a room – I couldn’t get up, walk around or anything really.

Without going into too much detail, I found the paper actually AMAZING. Not because it was easy, but because it was EASIER: it was a calculator one. The non-calculator one I did two weeks ago was about the worst thing I’ve ever done, because I could barely do the last 5 questions. I lost so much confidence and felt utterly miserable about it.

This one? Apart from two questions, I could do all of it quite confidently. There was no freaking out, no tears, no thoughts of “I hate it all I can’t do this!” because I had no need to think that. I was in there for about 4 hours in total, and there were moments where I had to think a LOT about a specific question, but it was logical thinking rather than panicked thinking.

Today, I can truly say that I’m proud of myself. It’s not often that I CAN say that, because I usually find fault with something I do. With the maths, there are some questions I got wrong – for anyone who did the Edexcel paper, you know that perimeter of the sector question? I fucked that up. Same with those disgusting algebraic fractions. That doesn’t matter, though; for the ones I thought I’d REALLY struggle with, I did well.

Also, I GOT The COLIN’s CAR QUESTION RIGHT. It took me a while but I DID IT. Oh yeah, and please don’t look at the unofficial mark scheme; it’ll just stress you out.

I did WELL. At MATHS! I know the non-calculator paper will drag my marks down, but GOD I’m so happy because this one went well. If you know me, you’ll know that over the last 2 years, I’ve freaked out massively in lessons with difficult topics (algebraic fractions, sine rule, to name a few). To give an idea of what it was like, I cried insanely in front of my teacher and told her that I felt worthless and that I was useless at everything. I NEVER express those sorts of feelings to teachers.

But I DID IT. For maths, I managed; I never have to do it again, but at least I can say I went of that exam not thinking I was a failure. I was, and am, happy, because it’s put me into a positive mindset.

That’s important. When an exam goes well, hold onto that feeling and tell yourself you CAN do this. If an exam makes you feel terrible, don’t get hung up on it: just move on to the next one. You need to get your confidence up, because otherwise you’ll just think it’s all pointless.

I really, really want to get an A in this subject. Not because I like it, and not because I necessarily care about the subject, but because I want to prove to myself I can. All those times I cried because I thought I was awful, and because I couldn’t understand something? I want those to disappear in the knowledge that I have DONE well at something. That I have achieved something that before, made me doubt myself.

I’m happy. Maths was an exam that caused me so much worry, but now it’s over. Now I can really clear my head, and concentrate on other ones that make me want to scream, like. music or physics.

Are there any exams that you THOUGHT would go horribly, but haven’t?

Just remember: don’t give up. For GCSE people, we’re nearing the end. WE’VE GOT THIS!

From Elm πŸ™‚

To anyone getting results today

Dear you,

Imagine you’re a bird. Bare with me here. Imagine your wings spreading, air filling the feathers as you climb higher and higher. Imagine that freeing feeling you’ll get, knowing that you have the whole sky at your wingtips. You breathe in, letting the breeze fill your lungs.

Have you got that picture in your head?

I want you to know that WHATEVER happens later today, you are still you. You’re still that bird, in the sky, who can chirp and have the world answer back.

You’re more than a letter. You’re more than an E, D, C, B, A, A star. Imagine you’re a cat; imagine you’re a lion; imagine you’re a tree with your branches fanned out and your leaves rustling.

You’re more than a letter because you CAN imagine those things. You HAVE an imagination, and you’re using it, right now; nothing on a piece of paper can define you.

Only you can define you.

I want you to know that you are a wonderful human being. I may not know you – you’re probably thinking, ‘she has NO idea what she’s talking about!’ – but I already know you are because you have that imagination, and you were strong enough to get through those exams. You were strong enough to keep going, and you’re strong enough to tell those people who think you’re a failure to piss off.

I don’t know what it’s like. I won’t be getting my results until next year. What I do know is that so many people I care about WILL be getting results today.

This is my message to them, and to you. Once you know what you have – if you’re disappointed or happy – imagine yourself as that bird, and that cat, and that tree. Imagine yourself as anything you WANT to be, because you aren’t confined to a piece of paper.

Once you’ve got your results, I’d love to know how you did.

Because however you did, you did amazingly.

I hope this helps, in some way. By the time you read this, you will probably already have those results. I wish you all the best of luck. If you feel crap, please email me, and we can talk it out. I’m happy to help, in any way I can.

From Elm πŸ™‚

I HATE YOU EXAMS I HATE YOU SO MUCH OH MY GOD

I am so stressed right now and the exams I referred to in the title aren’t even that serious. To those starting your GCSE exams after Easter, you have it WAY worse. I’m sorry for whinging 😦

Exams and things I have to worry about right now (I start school tomorrow oh fuck)

1. My French speaking GCSE assessment (the second one). I have to learn 5 paragraphs and I’ve done that but I stutter.

2. An English Lit coursework thing which is worth 20 percent of the WHOLE FUCKING GCSE. And the title? “Explore the ways in which writers present emotional relationships in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and a range of poetry, bow contemporary and from the English Literary Heritage.” I shit you not. I want to cry. It’s way too much, and there’s too much to write about, and I don’t know what to do.

3. My Sociology assessment on Tuesday that I completely forgot about and I’ve revised a bit (before Easter) but Jesus it’s on all we’ve done this year (mass media) and to top it all off, I haven’t even done one of the essays I was supposed to because of stuff… Eh.

4. Small Physics test on radiation but I’ll probably do crap because I can’t remember things.

5. A biology test, which I forgot about and was reminded of today, on genes and inheritance. Oh yeah, and I missed the last 2 lessons because I was on a revision course. Fucking hell

Like I said, I haven’t even scraped the surface of exams yet. But I can’t deal with this because I’ve already had to deal with really shitty emotional stress because of friendships this Easter, and I have to do so much revision that it’s just piling on and I feel sick.

I am such a whining twat. Sorry guys 😦

From the Elmitron