For teenage success, we need to change the conversation about the challenges they face in terms of their attainment. Our teenagers deserve better than this lazy narrative of ‘stress’ and ‘overwhelm’ they are being barraged with at the moment on social media.

This last year has been a challenge, that much is for sure – and teachers, parents, and pupils have worked so hard together to get through the challenges of pandemic life. In this mental health awareness week, there has been much reporting of pupil’s feeling stressed and teachers struggling with the volume of marking & getting the evidence required in the absence of the formal exam system. But does this narrative help our learners? It’s important to acknowledge the struggles – but we need to be careful and not create issues and inadvertently damage resilience. Our young people are remarkably resilient. They are adaptable with infinite potential. They don’t need to ‘bounce back’ -they are here, willing and ready and need support, encouragement & confidence to achieve. Bounceback as a phrase should be banned!

We are what we think, literally. If the narrative of overwhelm instead of resilience becomes the dominant narrative, we are putting in jeopardy their wellbeing. Exam stress and the narratives that go with it have reached a fever pitch on social media. Now, that’s not to say that some teachers and pupils feel the pressure. There’s a lot to be done under less than ideal circumstances. But is that the same as being stressed or overwhelmed? I’d argue that these narratives risk becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy in homes and classrooms across the country.

We must guard against this! There is one thing that most of us can do – we can be aware of our language. If given the strategies on how to study effectively & have clarity about what they need to work on, our pupils can improve their learning. The assessments they are sitting on are not necessarily the ‘last chance’ – or pass/fail.

Many pupils I have been working with this week need their tasks broken down and given encouragement, acknowledgement of the struggle, and practical ideas for how to study & get through their coursework. We need to work across our classrooms, all our communications, and all that we say and flip the narrative. Yup – there’s a lot to do. Yes – we need to plan, focus & prioritise what we are juggling.

Here are the top 5 study tips for teenage success

  1. Be clear and decisive about what you are working on. Stop working on the things you enjoy – eat the frog(!) – focus on the ones you struggle with the most.
  2. Take breaks – set a timer – study for a chunk, take a break.
  3. Guard against lots of chat from friends about stress. Practising mindfulness meditation can help – apps such as Calm or Headspace can be of help & encourage us to focus on being present in the moment.
  4. Be aware of your physical health & hygiene – do you eat well? Sleep well?
  5. If you are feeling overwhelmed – let someone know. There’s no stigma in asking for help!

And keep speaking to teachers; showing them work – ask for feedback. At home, parents need to reassure – model calm, encouraging study; checking in on what topics are being worked on and how they are getting on – and checking that they are asking for feedback and help when they need it.

We need to keep calm and keep scaffolding the evidence gathering. If we do all that and take the opportunities to show what we are learning, no one can ask any more staff, pupils and parents alike. We need to avoid creating fear or anxiety – acknowledge the struggle & then get focused on what we can control.

We can help your children, teachers or parents – contact us today.

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