Housemother Blog: Laidlaw South
1st May, 2019
The Final Straight
I am happy to say that the boys have returned well-rested and positive from their Easter break, most feeling that they were able to find a balance between work and play. There is a palpable change in both mood and momentum in the House; the boys are focused, industrious and so much quieter! Heads are down, desks well organised, revision timetables, post-it notes, flash cards and mind maps abound.
As we embark on the Summer Term and the final couple of months which will complete the academic year, there is so much to look forward to. Firstly, the boys of both the LVI and UVI Form will sit their exams, with the latter sitting A Level and Higher exams – the pinnacle of their school career.
In his first address of the term, the Headmaster spoke of the focus being on academic progress and examinations, but also offered some very wise words on attaining a balance as well as looking after oneself and others. This set the tone for what will be a term of academic focus, important exams and of course post-exam fun and farewells.
As House Staff we are here to support the boys in achieving and guiding them in preparing well, revising with regular breaks, eating and sleeping well and of course enjoying time out with friends, family and activities. Whilst researching tips on how to stay healthy and survive the stress of A Levels, I came across the following advice written by a medical student – both practical and pertinent to our boys at this point in time. The full article can be viewed here.
1. Try to keep things in perspective and have some self belief
You’ve worked hard for years now to get this far and there’s no reason why you are not capable of this next hurdle! Often people doubt themselves unnecessarily perhaps because they haven’t done well in a mock exam or they feel others are performing better, but remember that it isn’t their exam you’re sitting. Focus on yourself and don’t be distracted by what others are up to. By the time your exam comes around, you’ll be prepared and ready to do your best.
2. Working yourself into the ground is usually not that helpful
It can be easy to think that the more work you do, the better you will do, but this isn’t always the case. What you need to do isn’t necessarily work harder but work smarter. Work for focused periods of time but give yourself a break and make sure you are sleeping. Working all the time can become stressful and give your mental health a real knock because you stop doing the things you enjoy.
3. Night time is for sleeping
A big factor in keeping your mental wellbeing in a good place is getting enough sleep. We all know that sleep helps in consolidating what we learn in a day and everyone feels better after a good sleep, but yet it’s often the first thing we scrimp on in times of stress. Give yourself that important break each night and try to wind down for at least 30 minutes before bed to relax and ease any anxieties that might have built up over the day.
4. Talk to people but not necessarily about work
Exam season can become quite isolating but we are social creatures and this isolation doesn’t do us much good. So arrange to meet your friends for coffee and try to talk about all the other things going on in the world other than revision!
It can be good to air any stresses you might be having to friends or your family. You’d be surprised how many of your friends share similar anxieties, or how understanding your family can be if you open up.
5. Remember that exams will be over soon
I know during my A-Levels I certainly struggled to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I know this negatively impacted my mental health, but now that I’ve been through it I realise how irrational that was.
You have the date that your exams will finish so keep that in your mind – it will help you to reassure yourself you can make it over this final hurdle. Have something fun planned for when you finish to really keep you motivated to get there. Remember that looking after yourself is just as important as studying your notes, because if your head isn’t in it, it doesn’t matter what’s in your head. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you are feeling to someone you trust, it’s amazing how much it can help!
The boys have many avenues of support both within and out with the House. If they are feeling anxious, stressed or just need a chat; the Housemaster, Housemother, tutors, teachers as well as Mrs Blair, the School Counsellor are always on hand and willing to listen. One of the great strengths of Merchiston is its investment in pastoral care in-line with the Government agenda. The School is currently implementing high quality Mental Health First Aid Training initiatives for staff, equipping them with confidence, skills and tools to recognise and offer initial help with common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. House Staff have been prioritised in the first wave of training and I was very fortunate to be part of the first group to undertake this invaluable two day course last week. All of this enables us as staff to offer the highest standards of care and support to the boys.
Another valuable avenue of support is the boys themselves and their commitment to supporting each other. There is a wonderful spirit of camaraderie amongst them, lots of fun but also a growing maturity in supporting each other through the more difficult times such as preparing for exams. Last night as I passed through the dayroom two pupils were using flashcards to revise Classics, whilst another two tested each other’s knowledge of Chemistry. As well as academic support, the boys are also enjoying downtime together, building close knit friendships that prove hugely important in times of stress.
All that remains is to wish both our LVI and UVI Forms the very best for their exams, which for some are now underway.