Leaving pressure behind
ALL across the country, the midnight oil is burning as students
strive to absorb as many facts and figures as possible between now and
June 7. Study and exam revision books are being torn apart in the hope
that the extra work will accumulate enough precious points for them to
study their preferred course.
The weeks before the exams can be the most stressful and apprehensive for some students, while others take it all in their stride. Many feel anxious and panicky, and even the most confident person can begin to doubt their own ability.
For most of these young people, this is the first stressful life event they will encounter and many have difficulty dealing with it. The pressure and weight of expectation - or perceived weight of expectation - can be too much for some.
Mary McGrath is the Education Officer for Aware, a voluntary group that aims to help people beat depression. As part of the organisation’s ‘Beat the Blues’ programme - which is specifically designed for senior classes in secondary school - she visits schools from Donegal to Limerick talking to students on how to deal with depression.
She notices the added pressure on students studying for the Leaving Cert and advises teachers and parents to be supportive of these students at this difficult time. For the students themselves, she recommends that those who feel down and tired should talk about it to someone who can listen.
“It is noticeable that they are under extra pressure at this time and they have more negative emotions when they come towards the Leaving Cert. I’m always telling them to look after themselves and keep on top of their work, but take time off for relaxation too, away from the books, because that’s really important. But make sure you’re on top of your work, because that’s where the pressure comes on: when you’re trying to catch up,” she stresses.
Mayo footballer, Mark Ronaldson who is to the fore of Mayo’s run to the U-21 All-Ireland final, is studying Commerce in NUI Galway at present, having completed his Leaving Cert in Presentation College, Headford last year. While acknowledging that the Leaving Cert is tough, he feels the media make more out of it than it is, and says that the most important thing is to stay focused.
“College exams are equally important, but you don’t hear people talking about it that much. The Leaving Cert is important but there’s more after the Leaving Cert, that’s for sure, and when you go to college there’s not too many people talking about it then. It’s important at the time but once you get through it there’s more important things.
“Your always nervous and apprehensive about it but I don’t think it is as bad as it is portrayed. Like every exam, if you have put in the work in the weeks and months leading up to it, it is manageable to get on well in the Leaving Cert,” says the Shrule man.
Worry and nerves are simply part of some people’s personalities. Whether it be studying for an exam or taking the driving test, they will always imagine the worst.
This is a view taken by Tony Deffely, the Career Guidance teacher in Davitt College, Castlebar, who has advised many a student over the years. He feels that the hype and the focus is blown out of proportion and it doesn’t help the student.
“In life some people worry more than others. I suppose the Leaving Cert is a crucial time in a young person’s life and people who are natural worriers are going to worry more than others. Because we make it such an intense focus now and such an intense media focus, the importance of it has become hugely exaggerated and does put an awful lot on people who do worry. Other people may come under pressure because they have a parent who is a worrier or who is pushy.
“One is always worried that someone would worry to excess. It happens, and some people can freeze on exam day just as much as footballers can freeze in a big match, it’s a natural reaction. Some people just sail through it like a duck through water and you have to tell students that worry to look to people who don’t worry to excess and see how they manage it. You should always model yourself on the competency of those who are better than you in certain areas,” says the experienced teacher who has seen the varying approaches of thousands of different students over the years.
The Leaving Cert is a milestone, not a millstone. Year after year, June comes and goes … and life always goes on.