Dear all (geographers, philosophers, tutees, and all those that I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with over the last couple of years.),
I hope you don’t mind me disturbing your peace to offer a couple of reflective thoughts. I will be on uncle duties tomorrow, so won’t see you in person.
Getting exam results is a strange business, I know of no other situation where you are made to wait for the result over several weeks, it’s incredibly hard. Teaching is unique in the ‘real world’, when you go for an interview you usually find out on the day whether you have been appointed, quite often in front of the other candidates.
Even though life has carried on, the event has been lurking in the background waiting to come and surprise you. Tonight is difficult, I reckon in my past I’ve spent about six such nights, wondering about the outcome of exams, from G.C.S.E. to degree. Let me offer you some advice; by now you have probably been through every scenario in your mind, the worst and best case results, tried to total the marks you picked up on each paper, the marks you have lost, the areas you could have revised better… You may be seeing ‘signs’ that somehow point to your success or failure, my personal favourite was reading the horoscope in the local paper.
I’m not meaning to sound disingenuous… but stop it. Meet up with friends tonight, watch a film, laugh, and then go to bed. Don’t worry; praying to the gods, that final good deed, wearing your lucky charm, nothing can influence the result now. Relax.
Tomorrow is one of those rites of passage, which you have experienced several of over the last couple of weeks. It’s a day to be enjoyed whatever the outcome; it marks the beginning of your passage from child into the adult world.
Please remember that results are like a photograph, in May/June we took a snapshot of your development, as such they mark a point in time; in reality they have little influence over your future success. Irrespective of the grades, the most successful individuals are those that have resilience, who learn from their successes and mistakes, who continue to learn, who understand others. Ignore these attributes and the best grades in the world won’t matter.
The results you receive are a platform to build upon, not a torpedo to wreck your future success or happiness, they are a measure of a small part of human capability. Some of you will continue with an academic career, whilst others are beginning careers in trades that have built the success and wealth of this country, skills that we cannot ignore, nor do exams successfully measure. I wish I was more practical, as my lovingly nailed together furniture shows!
Please don’t spend your time comparing yourself to others, this is a particularly dangerous road to take, if we all did this none of us would get out of bed in the morning. With age I’ve come to accept that people are better looking, fitter and more ‘intelligent’. Your only rival is yourself; always seek to do better, whatever route you choose. If you know in your heart that you tried your best, you can be proud of your achievements, whatever the result.
If they are outstanding, celebrate, but be modest; remember that you are only as good as your last result; reflect on what contributed to your success, repeat it next time.
What if they’re not what you expected? Don’t be down, there is nothing that can’t be righted, it is not the end of the world. Be pragmatic. Exams can be taken again, life will not stop. At a quieter time, think about what you could have done better; remember the feeling in the gut and promise to use it. Think of it as a challenge. You may already be lucky enough to know that your talent resides in an area other than the academic…
Whatever the outcome, enjoy the feeling of release, the experience, and being with your friends. Be optimistic, you have the whole of your future ahead and it’s a pretty amazing journey- I’m on the road just ahead…ok, perhaps several hundred miles.
My thoughts will be with you all.