Reducing Exam Stress – introducing the Revision Take Away Box

Take Away Revision Box

I read with great interest yesterday a tweet by Natasha Devon highlighting that ChildLine reported a 200% increase in children phoning who are unable to cope with exam stress, that’s 34,000 pupils in 2015 alone. According to Miss Devon, who is the Department for Education’s mental health champion

‘Young people mental health is getting worse, but the government doesn’t want to address the social inequality that causes it.

Read more at https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/young-peoples-mental-health-getting-worse-government-doesnt-want

As a teacher, I have no doubt that there are many factors which can lead to mental health problems in children. In schools, teachers are regularly working with pupils who have self-esteem or body image issues, eating disorders, anxiety, OCD and depression to name a few. Often, teachers deal with serious mental health issues which are not a result of changing hormones as we are often lead to believe. Added to this, students are tested rigorously from the age of four and are under tremendous pressure to do well in exams as it is arguably deemed important to do so to succeed in life.

In my experience as teacher I have met many pupils who react in various ways to exam stress. There are those who bury their heads in the sand and choose to ignore the amount of work that is thrown at them in terms of homework and exam practice questions; if they ignore it surely it will go away. Others have extensive revision plans and revise continuously without taking a break and can ultimately end up being less productive as they are worn out, stressed and anxious at the thought of never having done enough. There are pupils who are more concerned with worrying about where they will sleep at night or whether they will have an evening meal to stop the hunger than to be concerned about upcoming exams. Some may not be able to find a quiet space in their homes to enable then to be productive in their study or may not have adequate resources such as books or stationary to aid their revision. Others, often with parental support can find a healthy balance between study and breaks and excel in both their hobbies and studies. While other are under tremendous pressure from parents to live the dream that they have for their children which may be within their potential or may not be and consequently may put enormous pressure on pupils who will struggle to meet those ambitious dreams.

Sometimes, as a society we need to look at it from the student’s perspective. They have busy lives, they are young, they have ambition, they have problems and concerns just as we as adults do. They need support and encouragement to excel or to reach their potential whatever that potential may be. They need to be supported to find ways to express their feelings safely and to build up resilience to the stresses that life inevitably throws at them.

So, today I took a minute to see things from my exam student’s perspective. It is nearing the end of term, they are tired, worried and some lack motivation or are weary of the repeated advice from teachers that time is precious and they only have so many days left until the exams start. Inspired, by other food teachers who I interact with on the Food Teachers Centre, I decided to create a surprise revision aid gift for my A level students.

I went to a pound shop and collected some stickers, coloured card, highlighters and pens and pencils. I wrapped up individual packs of dried apricots to sustain energy levels during revision (sorry but I am a food teacher through and through) and produced a little card with tips on eating for mental health and wellbeing. I printed out some exam questions and revision envelopes with relevant topics. Most importantly, I included some tea bags for crisis time where only cups of tea will do.  I placed them all in a small pizza box, wrapped it up and wrote a few encouraging words on the front.

So what it is the point? The point is that hopefully my students will see that I do understand that they are under pressure and that I have taken some time out to reflect on the fact that revision is difficult. By creating a simple resource I am hoping that I will offer them some reassurance and motivation to get on with their revision if they choose to do so and to do the best they can.

I look forward to giving out the revision take away boxes next week and hopefully they will help my students in some small way as exam time approaches.

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Feel free to comment or email me at foodandhealthteacher@hotmail.com if you would like to discuss this blog further.

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