All too often, the day after results are released is a time of extreme emotion for teachers: joy and vindication, or misery and recrimination.
The remainder of the holidays becomes a period of optimism for the new academic year or darkness and uncertainty about what the future brings.
But extreme feelings at this time are unhelpful. Regardless of whether everything has gone to plan, or the shit has hit the fan, the best approach to the post-results period is one of moderation, and avoiding the following traps:
Taking all the credit (or blame) for GCSE results
When your class has all 8s and 9s, it’s easy to see the results as the culmination of all your hard work. Yet no matter how much you challenged, inspired and motivated your students, it’s wise to remember that they were the ones who sat in the exam hall.
Likewise, you shouldn’t take it personally when things go awry. A bit of reflection on how well you prepared a class for the exams is healthy, prolonged sessions of self-flagellation fail to account for the fact that teachers probably have a smaller influence on student outcomes than we tend to think.
Public shows of celebration or lamentation
Flicking through my Twitter feed the day after GCSE results, I usually spot a juxtaposition of Tweets that read something like this:
‘Congratulations to 11T1 - you absolutely smashed it!!! Can’t believe you hit 100% grade 7-9 in GCSE History!’
‘Feel so deflated after GCSE day. Some abysmal results from kids who should have done so much better. #cantfacegoingbacktoschool’
Online and in the pub, we can all be guilty of ostentatious celebration and abject commiseration, letting the results define us as brilliant or woeful teachers. We should try and keep our classes’ GCSE achievements to ourselves. Your public display of glory may unintentionally fuel someone else’s #cantfacegoingbacktoschool feeling.
Knee-jerk response or ignoring obvious patterns
Increasingly, exam boards like to provide us with more and more data about our students’ exam performance. This means it’s tempting to launch into an immediate and comprehensive scrutiny of what went wrong, followed by a detailed plan for rapid improvement.
There are clear dangers in an impulsive response to bad results. When drawing up action plans based on the weaknesses of the current cohort, we often fail to take into account potential differences with future cohorts. Alternatively, in this moment of frustration, we sometimes under-analyse, risking missing out on some obvious patterns across several examination series.
For the day after, a calm head and a sense of perspective are the order of the day. At a time of polarised emotions, try to meet with the triumph and disaster of GCSE results by treating those two impostors just the same.
Mark Roberts is an assistant headteacher in the South West of England