And do they drive their teachers to distraction? They certainly know how to wind their parents up. Prelims start in earnest this week and has the pace of work increased? I should really rephrase that. Is any work happening at any noticeable pace? Did Richard Hammond crash his car? At any mention of exams or revision a glazed, panic-stricken expression comes over the older guineapiglet’s face and he dashes off to the safety of a computer game. So we’re starting on an enforceable, non-negotiable, 2 week timetable of crisis management. “You expect me to do all that? You must be joking!” Uh, no, I’m not joking. Meanwhile the younger one is looking on with something akin to evil glee. Your turn soon, we warn him.
Younger sister tells me not to panic but I don’t see why I shouldn’t. Prior to Christmas, he did have a 100% record – 2 exams taken, 2 exams failed. Int 2 maths has become Int 1 (for the whole class – I don’t think he necessarily did much worse than anyone else) and that has taken the pressure off a bit, particularly with a reasonably good mark in the Int 1 exam post-Christmas. And I was getting on so well with my maths before Christmas. It really does make me wonder if we’re asking too much of them to meet the same targets in S3 as they would be set in S4. I’m just becoming slightly nervous that lower marks in his Standard Grades than he should achieve will compromise his subject choice for Highers.
Meanwhile the dishwasher has packed up and there’s a funeral to factor in. Perhaps his much more focused cousins will sort him out while we’re in Somerset. The bathroom has gone on hold for the foreseeable future and there’s a house we’re contemplating trying to buy. Look on the bright side – at least it was the dishwasher and not the washing machine. Maybe I can do a deal; washing up or revision.
When I was his age it seemed really unfair to be getting ‘bad’ marks in S3 when we had another year before we perfected things. As a teacher though the playoff still exists – do we dumb down an S3 exam and then great unfair expectations (if a kid is getting 1s or 2s in S3 why bother working any more for S4?) or do we present them with the same level of difficulty but over less breadth of the curriculum in S3. The latter part is quite important – the exam difficulty might be the same as in S4 but the content has been covered and will probably not be covered again until final revision time, if at all. This is where S3 exams are really good for the student in getting half of their revision material ready before the biggies in S4, and realising where the holes in their study programme might be.
As for the computer games, I’m a huge advocate of games for learning, but not games to get out of learning. Coming to a deal on gaming is hard because, if you’re doing well in a game, you don’t want to lose the points you’ve built up – a sore point for a teenager.
However, f you have a Nintendo DS, or can get a loan of one, why not trade a session of Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for every hour of revision done? It’s a fun game, lasts anything from 3-30 minutes and it helps warm up the pre-frontal cortex ready for more (and you really feel it heating up!).
My final bit of advice would be that you sit down with a large sheet of A3 and, together, look at what needs revising – chapters of books, essay-writing practice, past paper practice, creating memory cards of verbs etc… Split everything into 60 minute chunks and place each part somewhere on the grid, including the exams themselves. He’ll be amazed that when each part is prioritised that he’ll still have plenty of time to catch his favourite telly series or play a game or two. It’s worth getting something like a nice big bowl of popcorn to coax him through this bit 😉
Unfortunately these are the biggies; he hasn’t got another year because these are the ones who are doing their Standard Grades in S3. He has never done exams before. And I have a big gripe about 1) breadth of learning set against the need for getting decent grades and 2) if they don’t get the grades this year that they might have been expected to get in S4, what then. However, 1) that’s the system and we have to work with it and 2) we can never know what the might have beens are! So we have no way of telling what he might have got in S4. It’s a little like herd immunity; the school can look at the overall picture and whether this experiment has improved the school’s results or not. What they can’t do is tell how it has affected individual pupils and how do I know if my son is the one who happens to get measles!
This matter of grades, whether the children are mentally ready or not and what happens next are issues concerning a lot of parents. They are not issues, as far as I know, that the school has discussed with any of us.
Yes, the big sheet of A3. I think I have finally got a clearer picture of what needs to be done and will do something along these lines (or DOn’s Learning account) for the exams in the summer. To be honest, for the prelims, I haven’t really known precisely what was needed or how to go about it and had hoped that he would be mature enough to tackle at least some of it himself with our support. I have been through a lot of maths and chemistry with him but I can’t lead him by the hand through all his revision. At some point, he does have to develop some sense of responsibility. Anyhow, it’s now clear he just panics on his own or even when faced with discussing it with us and we have to at least provide the structure.
I don’t mind the computer games in themselves as I have come round to the fact that I’d rather he did that then hang about in the street gangs, and he does loads of sport & music with other youngsters. He chats away on Skype with his Manchester cousin, and it does involve a lot of reading and problem solving. I’ve dimly heard of the Brain Training – I’ll look into it. But indeed, as you say, not to get out of learning.
Thank you for your comments/time. It is really helpful getting some supportive feedback. Now, I have my own deadlines imminent so must get on with it.