Listen to this message first! Then read on, if you like!
Sometimes survival is all about understanding a good idea, that allows you to develop the correct attitude. It’s not about competing and cheating, but about focusing and collaborating. It’s not about shrinking psychologically in the face of fear, but about controlling fear, expanding curiosity and focusing on the task before you, first one then the next.
The exam is not the moment for regrets, or evaluating yourself or others. You haven’t done enough. We’ve never done enough. We’re never good enough. Well do something about it next time, but now, if instead of a victim you are a survivor, focus on the task! Just do it!
The exam is the moment when regardless what your body does, your mind focuses on each problem and tries to solve it, the best way you can.
Exams can help you develop your survival skills. You don’t have to use them to destroy your self-esteem, your love for learning, your ability to understand why you are taking it — to learn a language to communicate with other human beings, to learn a language and train all of your kinds of intelligences, and learn to grow and learn about yourself in this very special and constructive way.
You cannot disappoint teachers, either. Not me, for sure. I have no respect for exams. I’m a professional survivor of exams. I know exams cannot tell me anything about my knowledge or skills, because I know what I know and because I’m always learning and fighting to improve. That’s like when you are at court for nonviolent direct action in a military base and they tell you that you have committed a “crime”. I simply cannot believe that. War is a crime against humanity, for its murders, destruction and taking away of vital resources. I know how much I love learning, and how much I learn, and learn to learn, and no Oposición (State Teachers’ Exam) could take that away from me. I also knew I was not the best teacher in the world, but that I was a good teacher – with my ups and downs, obviously, but good. I also knew I could reach for the moon. And one day I did! I managed to touch the moon! Me, the hopeless student in primary, the very mediocre student in secondary, the university dropout, got two 9.7/10 in the Oposición! I had been so crushed by the system for so many years, till I realized I was not into obeying that. I was into growing and reaching for the moon.
Most of the times we help the system a lot by not respecting ourselves. You don’t have to be brilliant to deserve some (self-)respect. Your value as a person does not come from market values. But culture is all about brainwashing us to believe this message, to execute, perform this cruel terribly unintelligent idea.
Taking pressure off you is fundamental, because piling up pressure is what makes everybody suffer a great deal when they have exams, and what makes some people fail exams. EXERCISE: So think about what gives you pressure, write it down, and do some problem-solving: find a reason why you shouldn’t feel that pressure. Problem-solving develops your intelligence and takes you away from the path of self-destruction and other kinds of violence. Do you want to change the world? Well, here is what you can do: start with what is at hand, yourself. Stop exerting violence against yourself and others, in the ways exams push us to do that!
Don’t listen to urban myths on exams. Check with the knowledgeable source, for instance, me! A horribly violent urban myth: “I failed because of my partner”. PLEASE! Come to your senses. (And don’t offend teachers like that. We’re professionals.) If you have to take the speaking test with someone whose English is not as good as yours, cooperate and work WITH the person, because YOUR English will shine and you won’t be harming the other person, you will be collaborating for successful communication. Our speaking test is not about YOUR English. It’s also about your ability to communicate with other people, including when there are communication problems, in all kinds of scenarios where communication encounters obstacles. We are professionals. We know what your English is like, as we listen. We are able (and trained) to work out that the two people can have different levels. As professionals we are listening, to check that regardless the different levels, the two people can certify the level they’re being tested on. If your partner does not perform well, you won’t necessarily fail. You will fail if you don’t try to make communication possible in the face of a problem, for instance, by speaking on your own all the time or by remaining silent. You have to use language to solve the communication problem: paraphrasing, asking in different ways, for instance. The things we have been working on and that you should be practicing at home as you listen or collect Useful Language for Communicative Strategies.
Teachers have no interest in people failing exams, forchristssake! The more people pass, the better we feel because it indicates people have been learning and you helped! Thinking that one fails because the teacher is unprofessional reflects an ignorant attitude/thought, full of disrespect or dislike towards teachers. Actually, the authorities already think we’re very bad teachers because of their statistics: all of those absentists who flunk or never take the exam count as cases of teachers’ failure to facilitate learning, which is a faulty analysis. The authorities do not count percentages considering WHO took the exam (less still, considering who followed the course). Their percentage includes a lot of people who never even came to class and who never took the exam. That’s why absentism hurts so much the public system. It’s telling society: public education sucks. If you want to learn, pay. Market is best, not the public system. But the truth about public education is not that. Teachers are qualified professionals, and on top of that they have valuable working experience, because working in public education is very demanding in various ways. We teach everyone. We try to help every kind of person learn. We have to study all kinds of things, and train in all kinds of things. Non-stop.
When you get to the exam room, focus. It’s not the time to send yourself stupid messages, like “It’s so hot”. It’s going to be fucking hot. Imagine you are in the jungle, forchristssake and forget about the sweat. You’ve got better things to do now! You’re an English warrior, or peaceling. You’re a survivor! You’re going to give your curiosity a chance, and focus on the tasks, and later on see what comes out of it!
Please, don’t play the victim. You’re consolidating the learning Culture tells you to do. Simply do your best. It’s just an exercise. It’s not about your value as a human being, not even as a learner. It’s red tape. Paperwork.
Still, you can make lemonade (“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”). You can get the most out of this experience. Approach the exam with curiosity. “hey, let’s see what happens! I’m going to do this task!” See if you can apply what you learned. Review the steps for each task. This helps you to focus! And enjoy the journey. Enjoy the fucking exam! It’s just a click inside you have to do. A click that will change your life!! 😀
Exams are like all the things in life we don’t like. If you learn to deal with them constructively, you will be developing skills, an attitude that will help you in more important matters in life.
Take exams, like mistakes, as opportunities to discover and explore things, as small exercises that help you build something big in time.
This improvised text is inspired in talk in class, in case you missed it, for my 2013-14 students checking out the blog at https://plansnwhatwedid.wordpress.com/