A Word from the Principal – 31 May 2022

Despite a semblance of normality beginning to resurface after two years of interrupted learning, many students continue to struggle with nerves and anxieties and worry that they might not be as prepared as their peers to sit, and succeed in, their exams. If this is the case, here are a few ways that parents can support their students preparing for exams.

Dear Staff, Parents and Friends of the College,

Mid-Year exams begin next week. This week is revision week, so our students Secondary school students be spending between 2- 5 hours per night in exam revision.

Despite a semblance of normality beginning to resurface after two years of interrupted learning, many students continue to struggle with nerves and anxieties and worry that they might not be as prepared as their peers to sit, and succeed in, their exams. If this is the case, here are a few ways that parents can support their students preparing for exams.

Firstly, remind them to ask God for the help they need to study well. This should be done at the start of their study session.  When they get frustrated and discouraged because they can’t solve a maths problem or can’t retain what they are learning, remind them to take a break, say a Hail Mary for help and then return to their study. If they have older siblings they can call upon for help, they are often their best support and sometimes their best tutors. I still remember my older sister helping me to solve many a difficult maths problem.

Secondly, check in and listen to them. It is important to remember teenagers are often more resilient than we think. In most cases, they can cope well with challenges. But some students find exams more stressful than others.  Parental monitoring that supports the autonomous learning improves student outcomes long term. This means checking-in with your teen, seeing how they are going and equipping them with whatever coping skills they need. Unfortunately, in times of stress, many parents use a high-monitoring low-autonomy style approach. This means that parents may still monitor their teen’s coping but also take over, hurry to suggest solutions, and criticise the strategies their child is trying. This approach rarely helps them. Professor Van Bergen suggests this approach so as not to come across as controlling or undermining their autonomy:

• ask your teen, “How are you coping?”
• listen to their answers check you have understood and ask if they need your support.

Let your actions be guided by their response. If they say “I’m very stressed”, ask if there is something you can do. You could say: “Tell me what you need to do and we’ll work it out together”. If they do the famous “I dunno”, say something like “OK, think about it, I’ll come back in a bit, and we can chat”. Follow through and let them know you will check in more regularly over the coming weeks.

Thirdly, encourage physical exercise. With winter upon us, students will have less opportunities to exercise, so parents may need to encourage their teens to get exercise, downtime and sleep. Exercise improves concentration and mental health, sleep improves memory retention. Good sleep is important for alertness, and teenagers should aim for eight to ten hours per day. Sleep also helps memory consolidation: a neural process in which the brain beds down what has been learnt that day. If your teen looks tired every morning, first thing to check is whether they have snuck a device into their room which is causing them sleep deprivation.

Fourthly, develop a schedule. To ensure your child prioritises self-care, help them put together a routine. This may involve scheduling specific times for exercise, meals and downtime each day, and breaking up blocks of study time with short breaks. Some students can do this themselves, but others need an adult to guide them in producing a study schedule and sticking to it. If parents work out an agreed study schedule with their son or daughter, they will be much more likely to help them stick to it when the going gets tough.

Today being the feast of the Queenship of Our Lady, I wish you all Her royal help, blessings and protection as our students prepare for their exams.

Sincerely yours in the Two Hearts,

Father Andrew Cranshaw – Principal