As year 12 faces ‘those’ exams and year 11 approaches the challenge of year 12, both year groups may experience fear. Although fear is an emotion associated with a possible outcome and may be described as false evidence appearing real, there are times when the potential threat is genuine. How do you identify which is which?
One strategy is to look into the fear (rather than turning away) to discover the thought pattern beneath. The next step is recognising the problem and applying reasoning skills to uncover a solution. In many cases, even if the fear doesn’t disappear, it will shrink. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode ‘Fear Itself’, offers an entertaining illustration of this concept. The characters learn sometimes it pays to read instructions carefully because threats may not be quite what you expect.
These were the thoughts whirring in my head during a recent conversation with my 17 year old son. He was in the grip of year 11 exam preparation and decided to focus on his future. He soon found himself struggling under the weight of perceived year 12 expectations. My son identified two dominate fears; passing year 12 English and completing his Design and Technology major work. Thankfully, he wanted to talk the problem through. He was willing to explore his inner worlds and expose the thought patterns underneath. Our conversation then turned to possible solutions. The magical outcome of this approach was the opportunity to address a more immediate, yet to be acknowledged fear; a fear of the year 11 exams.
You see, my son had chosen to fear something in the distant future, something he felt as could run from (his initial solution was to drop year 12) rather than facing a more pressing fear. He had unconsciously decided to avoid the threat of year 11 exams. Yet this menace was the most pertinent; it was already in front of him and he felt powerless to do anything about it. He could not run away. So this undefined fear gnawed away at him causing dis-ease. Even though he knew strategies to settle pre-exam nerves, at this point he was finding them difficult to apply. Why?
One answer is a lack of clear direction. My son could not identify an authentic reason for sitting the exams. They were a ‘test’ without a recognisable benefit (unlike a football semi-final which leads to a grand-final). In his mind year 12 promised more anxiety, so passing year 11 exams would only lead to more stressful situations. It seemed pointless. Yet, after chatting through the reasons for studying year 12 and addressing concerns about the year 12 English and Design and Technology courses, my son was able to acknowledge his fear of the year 11 exams. He faced it, determined a study strategy and, although still nervous, was able to see a way forward and apply relaxation techniques.
This post has already become a little longer than I intended, however you may be wanting a few more details as to how my son addressed his fear of year 12 English and year 12 Design and Technology.
First, he faced his fear of English by recognising how to target specific texts by embarking upon a focused study plan. He also remembered he has a strong network of family and friends who will support him whenever he feels ‘out of his depth’.
He overcame his fear of producing a Design and Technology major work after a brain storming session of possible and exciting product ideas. The anxiety became anticipation when, drawing upon the activities that are consuming my life at the moment, he realised he could apply real world technology to generate interest and funds for his project, post school.
Have you heard of crowd source funding? Crowd source funding refers to the practice of attracting people (crowds) to help fund a project. People pledge money, often in return for beta versions of products, donations on their behalf, or launch party tickets. This money is used to turn a creative idea into a product or service. Crowd funding is also used for charitable events. There are many internet sites devoted to this activity such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo in America or Pozible in Australia.
Although these sites may not be directly applicable to a year 12 student designing a major work, they offered my son a taste of what was possible with a little creative thinking. He could see that activities and lessons completed within school, may reach beyond the school gate. In that moment, school became a step on the path of lifelong learning and his fears, whilst real, had an authentic context. Here they could be examined, explained and eliminated.
Welcome to a World of Expression