students in Geography classroom
  • Middle School Blog
  • Resilience
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April is Stress Awareness month and given that, in most schools, the summer term involves some sort of examination process, I felt this was an excellent topic for this week’s assembly.  

I know that students sometimes think that if we didn’t want them to be stressed then we simply wouldn’t test them. Ever. That we can’t possibly care about their wellbeing if we insist on putting them under this pressure. Of course, the reality is far more nuanced than this.  

We are a school with a clear academic focus and as such have a responsibility to make sure our students meet their own aspirations. Alongside exciting curriculum lessons, which stretch and challenge, this involves ensuring that students are well prepared for examinations. Removing examinations might temporarily remove stress, but it would not help in the long term. However, by only focusing on the results of internal exams, rather than the whole process of preparation and reflection, students can lose perspective and become overly anxious.  

The greatest stress, that a lot of students’ experience, is that which they put on themselves. In ten years, no one will ask what they got in their summer exams. However, the process of preparing and taking them will have been beneficial. Summer examinations are an important check point in their learning, but that is all they are. Students should use them to find out what they can do and what they still need to do. They are part of a marathon of learning, not a sprint.  

Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Without it the human race would not have survived. When faced with a threat, the energy rush helps us focus our attention on what needs to be done. We need a certain amount of stress to perform well. It takes us from an under stimulated state to a level of alertness that allows us to achieve our goals. It allows us to face the day’s challenges feeling sharp and focused. However, when stress gets too much it can lead to behaviour changes that prevent us moving forward.  

Resilience is an antidote to stress. We all need to help our young people manage and tolerate ‘ordinary’ distress, including disappointment or failure. We need to normalise difficult feelings and have confidence in their ability to cope.  

And what should they do if things don’t go quite to plan? Receiving disappointing news can be upsetting and disheartening. Students worry about what peers, their parents, and teachers, are going to say. However, they are the only person that matters when receiving results and the next steps are the only thing that is important.   

Life is full of ups and downs, and challenges. In the grand scheme of life, even of just their time at LEH, these results are just stepping stones. This is a learning curve, and results are only an opportunity to grow and learn, they do not define them. Without mistakes, schools would not be necessary, and teachers would be out of a job.   

I reassured your daughter that there are lots of people to talk to if they feel that stress is moving from helpful to damaging levels. The staff all know that exams are stressful, we all went to school, revised, and remember what it feels like. But just because we can’t remove all pressure, or indeed want to, doesn’t mean we don’t care. In fact, we care very much about them learning to manage stress effectively, so that they can be best prepared for what life throws at them.  

By Mrs Sinnett - Head of Middle School

  • LEH Middle School