Whether you are a teacher or a student, the school year is never more stressful than around an exam period. Depending on whether its SATs, GCSEs, or A-Levels, exams can fall at different times throughout the year. However, in the UK they are most likely to take place in May and June. It’s never too early to start thinking about the exam period. From managing stress to achieving results, here are eight tips to help teachers survive the trickiest time in the school year.
1. Be organised
Most teachers are incredibly organised by nature. However, it can’t hurt to step it up a notch ahead of an exam period. As soon as possible, you will want to find out the exam dates and start building lesson plans around them. Then, as the exams near closer and closer, be sure to distribute revision plans - or encourage students to make their own revision plans – in plenty of time ahead of the big day.
2. Prioritise areas
Whether you are a high school teacher who specialises in one subject or a primary school teacher who covers a wider syllabus, you will want to have a firm grasp on what questions could arise and which topics could cause issues. One of the best ways to do this is by looking back through old exams to try and find a theme. Make sure the tough topics are given plenty of attention, without ignoring the smaller topics that might always crop up.
3. Communicate with your students
At times it may feel like no-one understands what you are going through. But remember, it’s not actually you taking the exam. Instead, it’s your students. Therefore, feel free to pick their brains for anything valuable that you can use. Find out what they are struggling with, what they are coping with, and any concerns that may be on their minds. This information can go great lengths to help you plan the exam period around the needs of your class. It will also stop you from playing a guessing game.
4. Communicate with parents
It’s always handy to keep parents in the loop ahead of the exam period. After all, you can’t always be 100% sure that students are relaying the key facts to their mums, dads or guardians. Consider sending out a letter or email that confirms the exam dates to parents along with how important it is that their child does well. It’s not uncommon for parents to become angry when their child doesn’t achieve the results they were expecting. Sadly, this anger can sometimes be directed towards the teacher. Avoid any possible conflict by keeping parents in the loop from start to finish.
5. Learn tips to deal with stress
Teaching in the UK can be so rewarding that you won’t have to rely on using stress-relief tips that often. But around exam period, they may just come in extremely handy. There are loads of ways to deal with pressure, including breathing exercises and yoga. You could even invest in a stress ball if you want to keep things basic.
6. Share stress-relief tips with students
Once you know what works and what doesn’t, how about sharing the advice with your students? Having a stressed-out class on your hands isn’t going to do anyone any favours and it’s more likely the class will pass the exams if they go into it with a more relaxed outlook.
Mock exams are the best way to ensure that you are on the right track. They will give you all the information you need as far as who needs more revision and which areas you should cover again. Try holding mocks in exam conditions to give your students a taste of what it’ll be like when the real exam swings around. Don’t forget, you don’t want to rely on this tactic too much because it may burn your students out before the actual exams.
There is nothing like an incentive to help people achieve their goals. In terms of the exam period, you can rely on incentives for your students, but perhaps more importantly, for yourself as well. While helping young minds achieve their potential is enough of a reward for most, there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a little something extra for a job well done. How about promising yourself a mini break when all is said and done?
It can sound silly to wish a teacher good luck ahead of an exam. After all, they are not even the ones sitting the test. But any teacher who’s ever led a class through an exam period will know how much it can take a toll on them too. Hopefully, if you follow these tips you should breeze through the tricky time and live to tell the story.