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Three ways to keep your cool during exam season

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Exam season can be incredibly stressful for teachers because they fail to practise what they preach to students, according to a teacher in Cheltenham.

In the 1 May issue of TES, Kate Townshend writes of the stresses of the exam period. “I have extolled the virtues of plenty of rest, a hearty breakfast and a measured approach on countless occasions,” she says. “But there’s still a good chance you’ll find me hiding out in my stock cupboard during breaktime in exam week, eating leftover Christmas chocolate and quietly questioning my abilities – despite the fact that I’ve come through the experience with good results for more than five years now.”

Exam time is testing for everyone involved, and Ms Townshend is fully aware that she’s not alone in suffering the stresses and strains of exam anxiety.

“Flies on the wall [in a school in the run-up to or during exam season] would see teachers offering tea and sympathy, giving up their breaks to coach worried students. They’d see the after-school catch-up clubs…copious amounts of coffee being consumed and working days extending well beyond reasonable hours.”

It’s not healthy, but when the dread descends Ms Townshend has four tips to help you stay calm. Here are the first three; for the final tip you will have to read the full article. 

Take your own advice

You tell the students to get enough sleep and eat properly, so you need to do the same. Make the time to eat proper meals at proper times and ensure that you unwind before sleep, rather than rushing headlong from marking to bed with your brain still buzzing.

Seek comfort in company

The knowledge that you’re not alone in feeling under siege can be incredibly helpful. A shared look of sympathy with colleagues in the same boat; team meetings where exhausted hilarity takes over; the sense that you are all pulling in the same direction towards the same aims – all these can help foster a certain Blitz spirit that makes it easier to handle the stress and anticipation.

Remember your own experiences

Tests and exams are something we all have to go through. Few teachers look forward to reliving their own GCSEs and A-levels each spring, but it does enable you to tell the young people something important: “I was worried too, and I survived. So will you.”

For the final tip and the full story, get the 1 May edition of TES on your tablet or phone, or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

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