Tips to help the Leaving Cert class of 2021 to cope

Secondary school teacher and wellbeing author ALAN WHITE shares tips for the Leaving Cert class of 2021 as they navigate their exam year during the ongoing pandemic
Tips to help the Leaving Cert class of 2021 to cope

Empty classrooms, due to Covid-19. Picture: Larry Cummins

THE recent move to Level 5 restrictions and the closure of schools, has been a huge setback for all students, parents and teachers. Returning to school last September was a huge moment of hope for everyone involved in education. Now that we are facing into remote learning again, many students and their parents will be feeling stressed and anxious about what lies ahead, especially Leaving Cert students.

Alan White is a second level teacher at Bishopstown Community School and Wellbeing Author.
Alan White is a second level teacher at Bishopstown Community School and Wellbeing Author.

Normally when we return in January the focus is on Pre Exams. Now there will be many questions and a lot of uncertainty as to how the rest of the school year will be impacted.

When faced with uncertainty in our lives we tend to lose focus and motivation as we prefer to have a sense of control over the outcomes in our lives. 

However there are a number of things that students can do to help them stay focused on their exams.

Become Informed not Overwhelmed.

The pandemic has been a shared struggle for all of us, all of our lives have been impacted in some way. However for Leaving Cert students the uncertainty that they have faced has been a real challenge. Young people thrive on certainty and clarity, something which cannot fully be given at the moment.

Another factor that is affecting the wellbeing of students is the amount of bad news they are exposed to, especially on social media. It’s important that young people stay informed with the latest news, but this must be balanced. When we are overexposed to endless bad news day after day it becomes difficult to maintain motivation in any task especially one as important as the Leaving Cert.

Allow yourself to feel the emotions during this difficult time, says Alan White. Picture: Stock
Allow yourself to feel the emotions during this difficult time, says Alan White. Picture: Stock

Avoid Toxic Positivity

It’s important to have a positive outlook on life, but there are times when we tend to be overly positive about difficult situations. 

When we fail to acknowledge a difficult feeling or challenging situation in our lives and gloss over it with forced positivity we can actually increase our own stress. 

However when we acknowledge that we are facing into a difficult time in our lives, and allow ourselves to feel the difficult emotions that come with it, we actually become more motivated and focused on the problems we need to overcome.

This also works well when we are supporting others having a difficult time. We often try to be positive for the people in our lives who are struggling. Although it comes from a caring place, it’s important to acknowledge and fully listen to someone who is struggling in any situation.

Stressed Leaving Cert students won’t stop worrying by simply being told “it will all be fine, things will work out”. 

When a young person doesn’t feel heard and understood, frustration increases.

 If you are supporting a Leaving Cert student, try to fully listen and understand their concerns.

It's important to start a routine, get organised, track your progress and show up, says Alan White. Picture: Stock
It's important to start a routine, get organised, track your progress and show up, says Alan White. Picture: Stock

Focus on what you can control

In times of crisis our minds can quickly become overwhelmed, making it difficult to focus on any task. To counteract this it’s important to narrow our focus and concentrate on the aspects of our lives that we have some control over. There are a lot of things that students can do to gain a sense of control over what is happening at the moment such as:

Establishing a Routine: One of the most beneficial aspects of school life is the structure and routine that it provides students. This allows them to fully engage in learning. It’s important that exam students quickly develop a daily routine, getting up at the same time every day, structuring time for school work as well as revision, not forgetting time to relax and switch off.

Get Organised: Being as organised as possible will help students continue to make progress. Taking a few minutes to organise their timetable, books and materials every day will make remote learning more efficient.

Track Progress: In order to maintain motivation we must also see progress. However students often tend to move from one subject to the next without giving this much thought. Every time you complete a good piece of work, or improve in a certain area, acknowledge it. This will help to build up a momentum of success which will also increase motivation.

Show up: This might seem obvious, but it’s important to show up and engage every day to the best of your ability. It can be easy to let classes, whether face to face or online, slip by. This quickly builds up and it’s easy to miss out on a lot of important information by simply not being fully present. While we must expect the unexpected at the moment, don’t assume there will be predicted grades again and work as if the exams will go ahead.

Hope

Finally, hope is the thing that keeps us going through the most difficult of times. We must always remind ourselves that over the coming months, the situation will improve. Not long from now life will begin to return to normal, the Leaving Cert holiday might even be back on! Whatever the next few months brings, remember to seek the support of parents and teachers, support each other and try to take things day by day for now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alan White is a second level teacher at Bishopstown Community School and Wellbeing Author.

He also facilitates wellbeing workshops for companies and organisations.

For more information visit www.changeswellbeing.ie linkedin Alan White or facebook Changes Wellbeing

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