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Stressed About School?

September 23, 2019

Exam time is always a stressful period - for students, parents, and teachers. If you or your child are taking exams this year, you are probably feeling a little bit overwhelmed at this point. The first thing to note is that these feelings are completely normal. However, exam time does not have to be a negative experience.


Long-term planning


Students who have put the work in through the year, and who take what time they have to revise thoroughly, can go into the exams with confidence. Students who have not worked to the level they should have will not change their final results through panicking in these final stages. 


It is far better to avoid the long-term health effects of extreme stress and approach exams with an understanding that whatever the result, it is not as imperative as you may think. There are steps that every student can take to ensure that they still achieve their long-term goals, whatever their exam results are.


Conventional careers


In my opinion, the conventional careers advice offered by schools is often extremely lacking. Many schools pay only a cursory glance to students’ careers and what little advice is given is extremely basic and prescriptive: if you are good at X, you should do X. 


My approach is very different. I believe in entering into career conversations with openness and frank discussion. I have no relationship with the students I work with and as a result, we can have an entirely open dialogue with no vested interests involved. This is often where parents struggle. Both students and parents are heavily invested in career discussions and naturally, this can lead to tension.


The steps I use to help students discover what they might like to do is very similar to how I work with professionals at any stage in their career. I have adapted ‘The Intelligent Career Theory’ method to suit younger individuals, asking them a series of questions to draw out where their interests truly lie. 


In conversations about careers and university choices, it is unhelpful to force the students down one particular path. This can often lead to more stress in an attempt to find a ‘quick fix’. Instead, I work together with my clients to understand what makes them tick. By focussing more on skills than school subjects, I aim to help students answer a few simple questions: Who am I? What do I enjoy doing? What do I want from my career?


Managing failure


Another important aspect of my coaching for students is managing failure. Often parents come to me when something has gone seriously wrong for their son or daughter. This can be failing an exam, failing all the exams, not getting into university, or trouble in school.


School is such an enormous part of the life of students that it can have an extreme impact on their mental health. When the expectations placed on them become too much, it is not uncommon for students to have a moment of crisis. I have extensive experience in helping students through these difficult times.


I strongly believe that exams are not the only thing that matters. Yes, it is useful to do well in GCSE and A Level exams but performance in this area is not a measure of overall success. I have coached plenty of individuals who failed their exams and went on to get into their university of choice and have fulfilling careers. Exams are just one small part of an entire life of achievements. I can help students to understand this and manage their failure by seeing it as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than a destructive disaster.


Taking control


Often the biggest benefit students gain from a one-to-one coaching session is the chance to regain a sense of control. By objectively discussing their options and building a personalised plan to help them achieve their goals, students learn how to manage their stress effectively. My coaching aims to equip them with the tools they need to undertake the challenges they face with a calm and measured approach. I have found that it usually takes just one session for an individual to completely change their outlook, helping them move forward from panic to planning.


Next steps


Once students have learnt how to take control of their situation and they have understood that managing failure is necessary, it is time to put a practical plan in to place with the next steps to attain what they want. As well as helping students and parents through challenging times, I can also help with tasks such as writing a personal statement, interview techniques and building a winning CV.


The important thing to remember at this time is that life is so much more than exam results. They do not define who you are and who you will be in the future. If you would like to discuss your personal situation further, please contact me at alice@alicejonescoaching.co.uk 

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