What keeps me awake at night - Results glory? I should be so lucky

11th January 2013 at 00:00

January, the month of resolutions, diets and resits. One thing is certain: the prospect of resitting a module is not keeping my A-level students awake at night.

Throughout the autumn term I held carefully planned revision sessions for students, hoping to improve their English AS grades by getting them to retake modules in January. Only a couple turned up to each session.

I produced a booklet that contained a helpful guide to revision, the assessment objectives translated into plain English and past exam questions with sample answers. I promised to sit down with them and mark any practice essays they wrote, discussing their work as we went along. I have marked only one.

Of course, there are always some who work hard, but over the years I have noticed that students entered for January resits tend to fall into one of three categories.

By far the largest group are those who leave it all to fate. In the early days of the National Lottery, an advertisement showed a large golden finger pointing down from the sky and into someone's window. It was accompanied by a voice saying: "It could be you." And that is exactly how some students approach a resit. If luck is on their side this time (as it clearly wasn't the first time round) it could be them with a grade A in March. If it isn't, well, it could be next time.

Others follow the X Factor model. These pupils assure me that they "have always been good at English" and are, in fact, very talented. If I suggest that they did not demonstrate this talent in the summer or else they would not be resitting, they regard me with barely disguised contempt. "You may never have appreciated my ability," they imply, "and last summer's examiner obviously didn't recognise genius when he saw it, but this January I will be spotted at last."

The third group approaches resits as if they were starring in I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! These students do no work either, but view exams as a challenge. If they successfully endure the deprivation of being without their phones for 90 minutes, the torture of sitting at a desk without talking or eating for that time and the stress of putting pen to paper rather than finger to keyboard, then they deserve to win a prize.

In spite of my best efforts, many students never grasp the correlation between hard work and success. Why would they? Outside the classroom, reality TV and celebrity culture have them believing that being in the right place at the right time is all that is needed.

I no longer lie awake worrying about results. Instead, I lie awake imagining outstanding results arriving in March and me basking in the glory of the best results in the school for decades. And why not? After all, this time it could be me.

The writer is an English teacher from Essex. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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